New Zealand have snapped their five-match losing streak in T20Is against Pakistan with two crushing performances at Auckland and Hamilton. The hosts now head to McLean Park in Napier, eyeing a series cleansweep against a Pakistan side that looks no way near to the one that beat New Zealand in their own backyard the last time they touched down on the Kiwi shores in 2018. Pakistan won the T20I series 2-1 back then to kick-start their magnificent reign at the top of the ICC T20I Rankings. Fast-forward two years and they seem like a team struggling for direction with the No 1 spot long gone and T20 World Cup preparations barely going the way they want them to.
In both T20Is, the inexperienced Pakistan top-order has faltered against some quality pace-bowling. In the first game, it was the extra zip and bounce off the deck that troubled the likes of Haider Ali, Abdullah Shafique and Mohammad Rizwan. In Hamilton, however, it was Tim Southee’s immaculate swing bowling that ripped through the top-order and put Pakistan under the pump straightaway. Mohammad Hafeez pretty much played the role of a lone warrior – bringing up a terrific and a career-best 99* to give Pakistan that impetus in the middle orders and propel them to a competitive total.
It can be argued that the sub-par totals that Pakistan put up in both matches were never going to be enough for this New Zealand batting but the bowling performances from the visitors have been quite underwhelming, too. Barring Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf, the trio of Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, and Wahab Riaz have been quite ineffective in both matches. Wahab Riaz, in particular, has been out of sorts and wayward throughout the two games and can be replaced with Mohammad Hasnain for the last T20I. With the series already gone, there is a chance that Pakistan can slot in the former skipper Sarfraz Ahmed in the playing XI.
Pakistan’s Probable XI: Mohammad Rizwan (Wk), Haider Ali, Abdullah Shafique/Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan (C), Khushdil Shah, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Wahab Riaz, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf
Contrarily, the hosts have been emphatic in both the outings and look favourites to seal the series off in style. They played two distinctly different sides and managed to secure comprehensive victories on both occasions. In their bid to kick-start preparations for next year’s mega-event, New Zealand stuck with their two young batters, Devon Conway, and Glenn Phillips. However, it has been Tim Seifert who has made up for the lack of runs from Martin Guptill’s blade with two terrific batting displays on the trot. In the previous game, he was assisted by the ever-consistent Kane Williamson as the pair stringed together a wonderful stand of 129 runs to see New Zealand home.
The hosts are likely to retain the same winning XI after a revitalized bowling battery delivered the goods in the 2nd T20I. If they do decide to bring in a fresh face, Jacob Duffy is the likeliest of candidates to receive the call-up given his brilliant debut for the Blackcaps in the series-opener where he blew away Pakistan’s top-order and secured a four-for.
New Zealand Probable XI: Martin Guptill, Tim Seifert (Wk), Kane Williamson (C), Devon Conway, Glenn Phillips, James Neesham, Kyle Jamieson, Scott Kuggeleijn, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult