NZ looks to outsmart Pak and seal knockout berth

Pakistan's batting relies on captain Shahid Afridi, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik and Sharjeel Khan. Another whirlwind performance from its batters, like the one against Bangladesh, will boost the team's chances.

New Zealand bowlers Trent Boult and Mitchell McClenaghan at a training session in Mohali on Monday.   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

The list of enviers must be a long one for New Zealand. The way it has adapted to starkly varied conditions to start its World T20 campaign on a bang, the team deserves the attention it attracts.

After getting used to the tropical heat of Nagpur and extended winters of Dharamsala with ease, New Zealand is feeling at home in the pleasant weather of Mohali. Going against the grain, it rode on the fine performances of its spinners to stifle an in-form India and a robust Australia and strengthened its position atop Group 2. Read: > Afridi to retire after World T20?

With a semifinal berth in sight, New Zealand will try to outsmart Pakistan at the I.S. Bindra PCA Stadium here on Tuesday. “We quite like to go under the radar,” quipped New Zealand coach Mike Hesson on Monday.

Apart from adjusting to conditions, New Zealand has massively benefited from its accurate reading of pitches and appropriate choice of playing XI.

> Afridi: People angry with us also love us

Seamer-friendly track?

Having an excellent group of players, who give priority to the team over individuals, helped New Zealand too. If pace aces >Tim Southee and >Trent Boult were left out to make way for spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner, they bent their back at Monday's nets with the hope of getting a seamer-friendly track here. Corey Anderson and Mitchell McClenaghan only add more teeth to the attack.

Since the Kiwis are yet to play a high-scoring match, their batsmen have remained rather silent. Yet, the line-up containing captain >Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, >George Elliott and Luke Ronchi speaks of efficiency. The promotion of Colin Munro and Corey Anderson provides depth to the batting.

Taming Pakistan, which presents an uncommon blend of unpredictability and skill, may not be a child's play though.

Overcoming challenges

Aspiring to win the contest and stay in contention for the semifinals, Pakistan needs to overcome a couple of challenges – withstand the scathing criticism for its loss to India in Kolkata and guard against repeating mistakes in team selection. It is understood that Mohammad Hafeez may miss the crucial match against New Zealand due to a knee injury.

Monday's lush green track must have encouraged the Pakistani pacemen – including Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Sami – making them wish the pitch retained its colour for one more day.

In the absence of Hafeez, Pakistan's batting relies on captain Shahid Afridi, Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik and >Sharjeel Khan. Another whirlwind performance from its batters, like the one against Bangladesh, will boost the team's chances.

The two sides played a three-match series in January and should have some idea about each other despite changes in the Pakistani attack.

The duel has the setting for a perfect entertainer. Only, it should rise to the expectations.

PTI adds:


>Wahab Riaz was hit accidentally by a ball during his team’s practice session at the PCA stadium after which he was taken for a “precautionary scan” at a private hospital.

“The throw hit him between the neck and shoulder. He has gone for the scan just as a precautionary measure,” said Pakistan media manager Agha Akbar.

“Someone threw the ball and it hit him accidentally. He is okay,” said Akbar.

Teams (from):

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt.), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Martin Guptill, Grant Eliott, Colin Munro, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Adam Milne, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee and Riss Taylor.

Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (capt.), Ahmed Shehzad, Anwar Ali, Imad Wasim, Khalid Latif, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Sami, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Sharjeel Khan, Umar Akmal and Wahab Riaz.

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