Sharjah: Pakistan, buoyed by a comprehensive win against India, will be eager to extend their winning run against New Zealand in their Super-12 match at the Sharjah Stadium on Tuesday.
Babar Azam’s team did themselves proud by ending a drought that lasted 12 previous meetings in global tournaments against India and marked their first success against India in nearly 30 years. However, they have another big task on hand against the current 50-over World Cup finalists. A victory will only enhance their chances of making it to the semi-finals in a group that features two associate nations, even though one cannot count them out entirely.
Pakistan, the 2009 champions, will start as favourites against Kane Williamson’s New Zealand, against whom they have an impressive record on the UAE pitches. The Sharjah pitch will suit Pakistan more as they have played many “home” games in these conditions.
Both teams could have tested their mettle ahead of Tuesday’s encounter if New Zealand’s proposed tour had gone ahead, but that was not to be. The last time these two teams met was in late 2020 when New Zealand won the three-match series 2-1.
However, Pakistan and New Zealand have played in the UAE as many as seven Twenty20 matches with Pakistan having a massive upper hand with a 6-1 record in their favour. However, it will be the first time both teams will be contesting at the historic Sharjah Cricket Ground with Pakistan enjoying the 3-2 edge in Twenty20 World Cup contests so far.
Pakistan have picked horses for courses with a perfect blend of youth and experience under the astute leadership of Azam, one of the top batsmen in world cricket today. Azam showcased his skills and his calm disposition in the opener my rotating his bowlers to perfection and topping it up with a match-winning knock along with Mohammad Rizwan against India on Sunday.
Pakistan, however, will still be vary of the Black Caps, who are led by a master tactician Williamson, who has engineered many stunning victories in the past. New Zealand also have a mix of veterans, who have starred on the big stage like Martin Guptill, Time Southee, Trent Boult and Mitchell Santner.
However, going by the prevailing conditions in Sharjah, Pakistan will be once again be looking up to Shaheen Shah Afridi to give them the early breakthrough, as in the past, with his menacing bowling, which will be backed up by Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf and spinners Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan and Mohammad Hafeez. Veteran off-spinner Shoaib Malik is another key bowler who was not required to be used by Azam against India.
Now all eyes will be trained on the Sharjah Stadium.