New Zealand vs Pakistan 2nd T20I Preview: With first-choice players returning, Kiwis expected to wrap up series
It was always the fear, wasn't it? That Pakistan would take some time to acclimatize to the bouncy conditions of New Zealand as they could not have enough time to practice due to their extended quarantine after several members of their squad tested positive for COVID-19 upon landing in New Zealand.
LIVE - New Zealand vs Pakistan 2020-21 - 2nd T20I
And, it did not take a lot of time for the point to be reiterated as Pakistan were reduced to 39/5 within 8.2 overs as they batted first in the first T20I of the three-match series.
Pakistan short of options at the top
In the absence of regular openers, Pakistan had to introduce two new batsmen at the top of the order. Wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan struck three fours but could not do any better than a run-a-ball 17. Talented opener Abdullah Shafique who entered the record books by scoring a brilliant century on T20 debut was dismissed off only his second ball.
It is never ideal to have a totally new opening combination but Pakistan had little choice in this matter. Fakhar Zaman could not board the flight to New Zealand after he showed COVID-19 symptoms despite returning a negative test. Babar Azam injured his thumb days before the beginning of the series, as was the case with Imam-ul-Haq.
All-rounders do their job
The only other option that Pakistan had is to introduce new batsmen in the middle order and promote Mohammad Hafeez and Haider Ali to open the batting. However, given that they are slated to bat at number 3 and number 4 respectively leading into the T20 World Cup next year, it was understandable for Pakistan to not completely rejig the batting order.
As it turned out, captain Shadab Khan, batting at number 5, had to walk in in the fifth over itself which was far from ideal. It was courtesy of lower order contributions from the stand-in captain and Faheem Ashraf that Pakistan could get past 150 in the first T20I.
Rauf and Afridi deliver
Haris Rauf then turned out to be their best bowler and finished with figures of 4-0-29-3. Shaheen Afridi assisted him brilliantly, picking up two wickets while conceding just 27 runs from his four overs. Imad Wasim and Faheem Ashraf were also economical.
However, Wahab Riaz and Shadab Khan went for plenty, both conceding runs at 11 RPO or more. It was due to the efforts of Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf that the match could stretch till the second last over.
A debut to cherish for Duffy
For New Zealand, debutant Jacob Duffy set the stage on fire as he picked up four wickets while conceding runs at an economy of 8.20. He dismissed 4 of Pakistan's top 5 and broke the back of the visitor's batting line-up.
With the bat, wicket-keeper Tim Seifert shone for New Zealand as he all but killed the case with a 43-ball 57-run knock. The difference between the two batting sides was that the runs came from the top for New Zealand, with Glenn Phillips and Mark Chapman scoring 23 and 34 runs respectively. They never allowed the chase to get out of the hosts' hands.
First-choice Kiwi players available
New Zealand registered a comfortable 5-wicket victory in the first T20 and they did it in the absence of their leading players Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Daryl Mitchell. All four of them, who were not available for the first T20I with the scheduled end of the second test against West Indies just three days prior to the beginning of this series, will be available for the 2nd T20I.
Kane Williamson, after the birth of his baby, is also likely to be back in the playing XI. Mark Chapman, Scott Kuggeleijn and Blair Tickner are likely to lose their place.
Pakistan do not have too many options on the bench to try out and are expected to go in with an unchanged playing XI.
Here's the probable playing XI of both teams:
New Zealand - Martin Guptill, Tim Seifert (wk), Devon Conway, Kane Williamson (c), Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, James Neesham, Ish Sodhi, Jacob Duffy, Trent Boult, Tim Southee
Pakistan - Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Abdullah Shafique, Haider Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan (c), Khushdil Shah, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Wahab Riaz, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf
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