Lahore: Pakistan and New Zealand contest a five-match one-day series starting on Thursday in Rawalpindi, which serves as crucial build-up to the World Cup.
The series offers both sides the opportunity to feel out each other’s strengths and weaknesses ahead of the World Cup in India in October-November.
The Black Caps shocked the home side by squaring a preceding five-match Twenty20 series 2-2 despite missing eight players — including skipper Kane Williamson — due to the ongoing Indian Premier League or injury.
Roaring back to wins
Under stand-in skipper Tom Latham, New Zealand adapted to the conditions skilfully, roaring back from 2-0 down to win the third and fifth matches, with the fourth abandoned after rain.
Middle-order batter Mark Chapman has been added to the ODI squad after blazing 290 for just one dismissal in the T20 series — the most runs by a batter in a five-match T20I series.
Wicketkeeper-batter Tom Blundell, recently included in the five best cricketers of the year by Wisden, and middle-order batter Henry Nicholls further bolster the squad.
“It’s a new format and we have to adapt quickly for this challenging series,” said Latham, whose team are second behind Australia in the ODI rankings.
Hopes on Babar Azam
Pakistan, who are fifth, will again pin their hopes on skipper Babar Azam, the world’s top-ranked ODI batter for the last two years.
“These five matches are crucial for our World Cup preparation,” said Azam.
“We have eight ODIs plus the Asia Cup (to get ready) and we will be utilising them to be well prepared.”
New Zealand have the edge
Pakistan have won five of the seven ODI series that Azam has captained. His two losses came against England in 2021 and New Zealand in January this year.
But New Zealand boast recent dominance over Pakistan.
Of the last six ODI series between them, New Zealand have won five and drawn one. Their last series defeat against Pakistan was at home in 2011.
The other matches of the current series are in Rawalpindi on Saturday followed by Karachi on May 3, 5 and 7.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan, Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Haris, Haris Rauf, Haris Sohail, Ihsanullah, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Agha Salman, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Usama Mir
New Zealand: Tom Latham (captain), Tom Blundell, Chad Bowes, Mark Chapman, Matt Henry, Ben Lister, Cole McConchie, Adam Milne, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Rachin Ravindra, Henry Shipley, Ish Sodhi, Blair Tickner, Will Young.