NZ in a must-win situation against Pak

New Zealand goes into the crucial B contest at 1-1, aware that only a win will keep them in the race for semifinal qualification.
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Published on Oct 24, 2006 08:05 PM IST
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None | By Sandeep Nakai (AP), Mohali

Stephen Fleming's record 194th limited-overs international as captain shapes as a must-win match for his New Zealand line-up against Pakistan.

New Zealand goes into the crucial Champions Trophy Group B contest at 1-1, aware that only a win will keep them in the race for semifinal qualification.

Pakistan can afford a loss at 1-0, after upsetting Sri Lanka by four wickets the day after pace spearheads Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were sent home for failing doping tests.

Fleming, 33, will be leading New Zealand for the 194th one-dayer Wednesday, surpassing the previous record of Sri Lanka's Arjuna Ranatunga. He insists that his personal record is less relevant than the team's success.

"Reaching a personal milestone for longevity is satisfactory, but I'd be more excited if we win the game," said Fleming. "We're deservedly not the favourites, but we're consistent and want to beat big teams often."

Fleming has led New Zealand to 85 wins, a tie and 95 losses, with 12 other matches failing to produce results.

He said he'd be focussing on Pakistan's weaknesses on Wednesday. "We've always respected the natural ability of Pakistan's cricketers," Fleming said. "But they tend to be a bit inconsistent depending on the pressure you put on them, and that's just what we're hoping to do on Wednesday.

"There's a lot of pressure for tomorrow's game, we'll have to bowl extremely well to their line-up," he said.

Fleming's team came into the biennial Champions Trophy, the second biggest limited-overs tournament after the World Cup, from a seven-month winter break and the captain said it was taking time to settle down.

Pakistan's victory over Sri Lanka underscored its ability to rise from adversity.

"A lot of teams in international sport thrive in adversity, it binds the team together," said Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach and former England test cricketer.

"We can't keep worrying about those players we don't have. We have to do with those in the team," he said.

Pakistan's second-string pace attack comprising Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Rao Iftikhar and Abdul Razzaq did well against Sri Lanka to make up for the absence of Akhtar and Asif. "They're good bowlers and have performed well in the past," said Woolmer. "It's nice to have that depth in pace attack, where one has backup if someone's missing.

"We have to maintain the desire and intensity against New Zealand. The pressure on the boys is a bit less, but they're still eager to perform well and win," he said.

Pakistan's skipper, Younis Khan said his team wanted to "beat New Zealand and not leave anything to chance in the last group match."

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