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Injury-hit Kiwis face stiff task against confident Pakistan

October 02, 2009 16:05 IST

Shoaib MalikTheir second successive ICC title in sight, a confident Pakistan takes on an injury-ravaged but spirited New Zealand in the second semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Pakistan, the reigning Twenty20 World champions, defeated the West Indies and India before losing a last-ball thriller to Australia to qualify second from Group A.

New Zealand, on the other hand, lost to South Africa before pulling off sensational wins over Sri Lanka and England to top Group B.

But while Pakistan have few injury problems except for the fractured index finger of skipper Younis Khan, New Zealand lost some key players in the run-up to the semi-finals.

The Blackcaps are without explosive opener Jesse Ryder, who was ruled out due to a groin injury just when he was beginning to hit form. They are also missing prolific all-rounder Jacob Oram, who has a hamstring strain. Pacer Daryl Tuffey too is out with a hand injury.

Besides, the Kiwis have been consistently inconsistent, their batting being a major worry.

The line-up did manage a 300-plus total in the victory over Sri Lanka, but that was only after Ryder had laid a strong foundation at the top despite batting on virtually one leg due to the groin strain.

He did not play after that, and the Kiwis felt the burly right-hander's absence big time when they made heavy weather of a small chase of a little over 130 runs against England in their must-win final group tie.

Skipper Daniel Vettori has been multi-tasking with both the bat and ball and doing a commendable job, but the Blackcaps cannot afford to leave it to him all the time.

On the bowling front, Shane Bond showed glimpses of his old self against England and he will relish the opportunity of opening the attack at the Wanderers' track where a majority of the matches played so far in the tournament have been low-scoring.

Pakistan, meanwhile, have little to worry about going into the match and senior batsman Mohammad Yousuf was not too wrong when he said that his side would start favourites.

"We have fought and played well in all of our three games so far. The entire team gave a good performance and our morale is high. I think we are favourites in the semi-final. I hope we win this match," he has stated.

The only sub-continent team left in the competition, Pakistan have looked strong under Younis's leadership. Their batting looks solid, with middle-order mainstays Shoaib Malik, who scored a match-winning hundred against India, and Yousuf in fine form.

Pacers Umar Gul and Mohammed Aamer have led the bowling with precision and off-spinner Saeed Ajmal's good form has lent good balance to the attack.

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