New Zealand vs Pakistan 1st T20I Preview: Men in Green might pull up undercooked as both teams miss big names
While Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq miss out for Pakistan due to injury, Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Daryl Mitchell will not be available for New Zealand for the first T20I.
After extended quarantine, Pakistan may take time to acclimatise
When the Pakistan contingent boarded the flight for New Zealand, they were expected to be allowed to train after three days of hard quarantine. However, when the team landed in New Zealand, more than six of their squad members tested positive for COVID-19 after reports that they had breached local health protocols.
As a result, the team had to undergo an extended quarantine period of 14 days during which they were not allowed to practice. The team could only move to Queenstown to begin their preparation for the T20I series just days before the first T20I which is set to begin on December 18.
This did not allow Pakistan enough time to prepare and acclimatise to the conditions. Their batting, especially, might suffer because of this.
Both teams coming of series wins
Pakistan are coming on the back of a T20I series against England which was tied at 1-1 after which they steamrolled Zimbabwe 3-0 at home.
New Zealand are also coming of a dominant 2-0 win in the T20I series against West Indies after the final match was washed out.
Pakistan hit by injury wave
Pakistan have been hit by a severe injury wave. First, Fakhar Zaman could not board the flight to New Zealand as he showed COVID-19 symptoms despite returning a negative test. Imam-ul-Haq, who was expected to take his place at the top of the order, then fractured his left thumb.
Just days before the beginning of this series, it came as a huge jolt for Pakistan when skipper Babar Azam was ruled out of the T20I series after injuring his right thumb. The injury was sustained during a throwdown session and the X-rays confirmed a fracture which ruled Azam out of the T20I series and also put him in doubt for the tests.
If that was not enough, vice-captain and leg spin bowling all-rounder Shadab Khan is also carrying a groin niggle. After initially participating in the net sessions only as a batsman, Shadab has started bowling and is likely to lead the side.
Big names missing from Kiwi XI
With the scheduled end of their second test match against West Indies just three days prior to the beginning of theis T20I series, New Zealand have rested Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Daryl Mitchell from the 1st T20I. Apart from Williamson, the missing players will join the squad for the last two T20Is.
Apart from these players, New Zealand will miss the services of Lockie Ferguson, who was on a roll in the T20Is against West Indies, while also picking up a 5-wicket haul, after he suffered a stress fracture. Hamish Bennett is also not part of the squad due to an injury.
Hafeez and Haider to open for Pakistan?
In the absence of regular openers Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam and an injury to Imam-ul-Haq as well, it looks likely that Mohammad Hafeez and Haider Ali will open the batting for Pakistan. Shadab Khan is likely to be fit in time for the first T20I.
Despite leggie Usman Qadir having a brilliant series against Zimbabwe, Imad Wasim will play ahead of the leg spinner. All-rounder Faheem Ashraf is likely to get a nod and will form the pace attack alongside Haris Rauf, Shaheen Afridi and Wahab Riaz.
Phillips and Conway in red-hot form
In the absence of some of the leading players, the onus will be on Glenn Phillips and Devon Conway to put the runs on the board. Both were sensational in the T20s against West Indies, with Phillips even registering a century - the fastest-ever for New Zealand in T20s as he broke Colin Munro's record.
The team will be led by Mitchell Santner, with Scott Kuggeleijn and Ish Sodhi being their main bowlers.
Here's the probable playing XI of both teams:
New Zealand - Martin Guptill, Tim Seifert, Glenn Philips, Devon Conway, Mark Chapman, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner (c), Jacob Duffy, Doug Bracewell/Blair Tickner, Scott Kuggleijn, Ish Sodhi
Pakistan - Mohammed Hafeez, Haider Ali, Khusdil Shah, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammed Rizwan, Shadab Khan (c), Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Afridi, Wahab Riaz
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