After winning the ICC World Twenty20 in England earlier this year, Pakistan will look to make it a double by winning the Champions Trophy. They have been impressive except for their last group game against Australia when the manner in which their two experienced batsmen dawdled at the crease was hard to fathom. Conspiracy theorists may well say that they wanted to ensure that India was knocked out. Of course, all calculations went out of the window the moment Australia kept their cool and won off the last ball. A winning rhythm can be upset with a loss so Younis Khan would have wanted to beat Australia for then his team would have been even more confident while taking them on again.
Pakistan also showed flexibility by promoting Shahid Afridi to the opening slot against Australia and the dashing all-rounder will have a role to play if Pakistan are to do the double this year. Kamran Akmal is not one to wait for a loose delivery to get going and the batting line-up is one of the best in the world with Younis, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf to follow the openers. The talented Umar Akmal and Rana Naved’s hitting down the order means that Pakistan have class as well as depth in the batting.
The bowling attack also has enjoyed the pitches in South Africa and in Saeed Ajmal, Pakistan have a bowler who can squeeze the runs from one end.
New Zealand have a problem finding 11 fit men to take the field but they have come back well after their loss to South Africa in their first game. If Brendon McCullum can get the team off to an explosive beginning, it makes it easy for the others who are less experienced.
Daniel Vettori has improved tremendously as a batsman and he contributes down the order. James Franklin is a good addition since he is more than a useful bowler on these pitches and a handy batsman.
If the pitch behaves itself then Pakistan will carry too many guns for the Kiwis but if the pitch is anything like it was in the earlier games, then New Zealand can upset Pakistan’s aim of an ICC double.