AUCKLAND: Blown away in the five-match One-day International series and routed in the first Twenty20 International on Monday, Pakistan must address batting woes if they are not to concede the T20 series too when they take on New Zealand in the second of three matches at Eden Park on Thursday.
Despite mixing up their personnel, the hosts have been red-hot this home summer, sitting as they are on a record 13-match winning streak across formats. The established stars have come to the party, as have newcomers who have shown no signs of stage-fright. Batting, bowling and fielding-wise, they have been far superior to a shoddy Pakistan unit that has seldom been competitive.
Pakistan’s biggest worry will be the lack of runs from the top order. They topped 250 in just two of the five ODIs, and made a horror start to the T20 series, slumping to 53 for 7, finally scrambling to 105 and conceding a seven-wicket hammering orchestrated by the bruising willow of Colin Munro.
Sarfraz Ahmed has the unenviable task of geeing up his troops ahead of the must-win second T20, especially given that his own form in front of the stumps has been less than impressive. His dismissal, slipping on dancing down the track and doing the splits to be embarrassingly stumped in the first T20I, summed up Pakistan’s slippery slide on this tour. On a high after the Champions Trophy triumph in England in June, Pakistan have been found out in the unforgiving conditions in New Zealand.
The Kiwi pacemen have used the new ball to telling effect, thriving on bounce and movement to undermine Pakistan. Pakistan’s bowlers haven’t been too shabby themselves, but their batsmen have seldom given them enough runs to play with.
Tim Southee was Pakistan’s primary tormentor the other day with 3 for 13, but he has been rested for Thursday’s showdown. That, however, will not offer any respite to Pakistan’s beleaguered batting line-up, what with Trent Boult, the left-arm swing bowler, and Lockie Ferguson, the right-arm paceman, both returning to the mix after being rested for the first match.
While Pakistan have been comfortably second best so far on the tour, head coach Mickey Arthur maintained that he still has confidence in his young squad and that the experience of the tour will benefit them.
“We spoke about the transition from one-day cricket to Twenty20 cricket but we didn’t execute it well enough, again,” Arthur told reporters after the first T20. “We’ve certainly not given up hope on this group, this is a good group of young players who will go away from this having gained a huge amount of experience. We’ve just got to be smarter, assess better and execute better. It’s incredibly frustrating at the minute but we’ve given it a good go.”