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Pakistan vs New Zealand 1st ODI Preview: Babar's boys start firm favourites against inexperienced Kiwis

Pakistan's Mohammad Rizwan celebrates his half century with Babar Azam
Pakistan's Mohammad Rizwan celebrates his half century with Babar Azam
©Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes

Left out of the T20 World Cup squad, Fakhar Zaman and Faheem Ashraf will see this series as an opportunity to prove their worth.

 LIVE SCORES - Pakistan vs New Zealand 1st ODI

It came as a bit of a dampener that this three-match ODI series is no longer part of the ICC World Cup Super League due to the absence of the decision review system or DRS. The super league points instead will be up for grabs when New Zealand return to Pakistan in 2022-23 for two Tests and 3 ODIs. 

Series in the backdrop of T20 WC

Both teams have already announced their 15-member squads for the upcoming T20 World Cup to be played in the UAE and Oman and this series will also be played in that backdrop. While players like Fakhar Zaman and Faheem Ashraf will like to prove a point after missing out from the squad, New Zealand will be without most of their first XI players.

Pakistan have been playing a lot of T20 cricket of late to prepare for the upcoming T20 World Cup. The last time they played an ODI was in England in July where the team suffered a shocking 3-0 whitewash at the hands of a second-string England team. The hosts were without all their first-choice players apart from Ben Stokes due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in the England camp.

Still, Pakistan, the mercurial side that they are, somehow managed to lose all the three matches and that too by comprehensive margins. What did not go in their favour was that the team mostly batted first and the amount of swing on offer with the white ball in England was surprising.

Their bowling, which certainly had the pedigree to extract the same or more movement than their English counterparts, was erratic at times and hence considered more runs than ideal.

New Zealand are also playing ODI cricket after a long gap. Their last ODI assignment was against Bangladesh when the team swept the visitors 3-0. In the absence of the likes of Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Jimmy Neesham, it will be some achievement for New Zealand if they manage to win the series. However, that is highly unlikely.

Different motivations for Imam and Fakhar

Imam-ul-Haq has been out of form for quite some time now. In fact, it was the thumb injury which he sustained on Pakistan's last tour of New Zealand which ruled him out for a considerable time. Upon his return, he has not been able to make the same impact.

His opening partner, Fakhar Zaman will consider himself unfortunate to miss out from the 15-member T20 WC squad and will try his best to make it impossible for the selectors to not reconsider him before the deadline of 15 October.

Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan continue to be Pakistan's most consistent batters and their rock in the middle order. Sohaib Maqsood will also have another opportunity to prove his class.

While Shadab Khan will be a part of the playing XI, it will be interesting to see whether Pakistan go with Usman Qadir or give Faheem Ashraf a chance to show his all-round skills. Given the helpful conditions for spin bowling in Rawalpindi, Usman who has been picked as a reserve for the T20 World Cup, might get a game.

Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf are expected to be Pakistan's leading pace bowlers. Rauf though will get tough competition from Mohammad Hasnain.

Onus on Allen, Latham and Mitchell

New Zealand have several young players and it will be a real test of character for them against a quality Pakistan line-up in their own backyard. Special things are expected from Finn Allen, Will Young, Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls. 

Daryl Mitchell is likely to replace the out-of-form Colin de Grandhomme. Hamish Bennett might play ahead of Ben Sears. His experience will come in handy in the longer format.

Expect Pakistan to win easily. But then, they don't like doing things the easy way.

Predicted playing XIs:

- Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Saud Shakeel, Sohaib Maqsood, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf

New Zealand - Finn Allen, Rachin Ravindra, Will Young, Tom Latham (c & wk), Henry Nicholls, Daryl Mitchell, Cole McConchie, Scott Kuggeleijn, Ajaz Patel, Ben Sears/Hamish Bennett, Jacob Duffy

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