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Kiwis look to seal Super Eight berth against Pakistan

Source: PTI
September 22, 2012 17:56 IST
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Having won their tournament opener with consummate ease, a resurgent New Zealand side would be on a look out for a Super Eight berth when it takes on Pakistan in a Group D encounter in Pallekele on Sunday.

The Kiwis, led by a record 123-run knock by Brendon McCullum, registered a convincing victory over Bangladesh, but it would, by no means, be an easier preposition for Ross Taylor's boys against the former champions.

Pakistan are far better equipped than their Asian neighbours, and with a formidable bowling line-up that includes the likes of off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and speedster Umar Gul, they certainly have the necessary fire power to put a tab on the Kiwis.

Brendon McCullumPakistan's main worry, however, remain their inconsistent batting.

They were bundled out for a paltry 96 against England in their warm-up match and their victory against India in the first warm-up game came only after being revived from a precarious position by an extra-ordinary innings from Kamran Akmal.

Pakistan's two most experienced campaigners in Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik have woefully been out of form and their top-order exhibits inexperience in the shortest format of the game.

Though, Malik played a handful unbeaten 37-run knock against India, Afridi just managed a naught and five in the two warm-up matches. He has also looked ordinary with the ball, which puts a lot of pressure on the Pakistani think tank ahead of the crucial tie.

Young Umar Akmal's form also remains a cause of concern for Hafeez. The 22-year-old has just managed 27 runs from his last four innings.

The senior of the Akmal brothers has also been good only in patches.

Pakistan's strength, however, is their bowling unit, which boasts of both experience and aggression.

While Ajmal would hold the key for Pakistan against the Black Caps, who are well known to flounder against quality spin, Gul along with experienced Abdul Razzaq will be responsible to keep the New Zealand top-order in check.

Hafeez may well start with a spinner from one end given the Kiwis' discomfort against the turning ball.

New Zealanders, on the other hand, need to work out on their opening combination.

They started with Rob Nicol and Martin Guptill in their warm-up tie against Australia, while James Franklin opened along side Guptill in the following two matches, including a warm-up game against South Africa.

But with McCullum having scored enough runs in the previous encounter, Taylor may well be tempted to resort back to Guptill-McCullum combination at the top.

The main worry for Taylor, like his Pakistani counterpart, is the side's inconsistent run with the bat.

Kiwi batsmen have shown lack of application and with little time spend on the crease in the build-up to the championship, they certainly have their work cut-out against a quality Pakistani attack.

The other worry for Taylor remains the form of veteran Daniel Vittori. The tall left-arm spinner didn't look his best against Bangladesh and it would remain to be seen how he comes up against Pakistan.

All-in-all, it would be an interesting contest as Pakistan would certainly not desire to go down in the "group of death".

Teams (from): Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez (C), Abdul Razzaq, Asad Shafiq, Imran Nazir, Kamran Akmal (WK), Mohammad Sami, Nasir Jamshed, Raza Hasan, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Yasir Arafat.
New Zealand: Ross Taylor (C), Doug Bracewell, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Ronnie Hira, Brendon McCullum (WK), Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Rob Nicol, Jacob Oram, Tim Southee, Daniel Vettori, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.
Match starts at 15:30 hrs IST

Photograph: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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