World T20: Unpredictable Pak face impressive Kiwis in must-win clash

  • Ashutosh Sharma, Hindustan Times, Mohali
  • Updated: Mar 22, 2016 13:07 IST
With his captaincy drawing flak, Shahid Afridi’s team will have to win in Mohali on Tuesday to soothe nerves back home. (PTI)

An unpredictable Pakistan, still smarting from the loss to India, will be fighting with their backs to the wall when they come face to face with New Zealand in the World T20 on Tuesday, a side on a roll.

For both teams the stakes are high — while the Kiwis would be aiming to seal a knockout berth, for Pakistan it’s a fight for survival. In the previous match, Pakistan got their selection wrong and will be desperate to seal a win and get their campaign back on track.

New Zealand’s success can be a template for every team wanting to succeed in sub-continental conditions.

They have gone about their business in the first two big matches, against India and Australia, with surprise picks. If they inducted three spinners — Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Nathan McCullum — in the ranks against India, at Dharamsala, Mitchell McClenaghan was the last-minute choice.

McClenaghan’s cutters, which fetched him 3 wickets for 17 on a slow pitch, helped the Kiwis surpass Australia.

Tinge of green

The tinge of green may sway Kiwi coach Mike Hesson and his think-tank to unleash Tim Southee and Trent Boult, but it’s something Hesson said will be decided only after seeing the pitch on match day.

“We were told by the groundsman in Nagpur that the pitch is hard and fast and has lots of bounce. It’s important to make your own assessment. We certainly are not thinking about the knockouts yet. We will look up that pitch tomorrow. The pitch will be covered overnight and will dry up a bit. We will pick a side that suits the conditions,” he said.

Pakistan, on the other hand, picked a seam attack and were found wanting in the spin department, but skipper Shahid Afridi insisted that his team has moved on.

“When two teams play, the one which wins commits fewer errors. We committed mistakes. We read the pitch wrong. Winning the toss in overcast conditions, we would have bowled first.

“But I won’t give any excuses, Virat was the difference. In this format, you cannot commit mistakes. Tomorrow’s match is important and that is what we are focused on,” he said.

Unknown entity

The biggest headache for New Zealand will be an unpredictable Pakistan. In both batting and bowling, Pakistan can be a handful on their day. “Yes, they are unpredictable and very skillful. They have got a lot of pace of left-arm variety. Their bowling attack, in particular, is very challenging.

“We are fortunate to have played them recently and (it) gives us more information. As a batting unit, they are relatively predictable in the way they play and that gives us more opportunity with the ball,” Hesson said.

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