A resurgent New Zealand will be eyeing a semi-final berth when they take on a deflated Pakistan in a World Twenty20 group match in Mohali Tuesday.
Smarting under a six-wicket defeat to arch rivals India, Shahid Afridi’s men need a victory against the table-topping Kiwis to keep their hopes alive of winning the trophy for a second time.
Pakistan won their opener against Bangladesh comfortably but things have since gone downhill as they unravelled against the Indians on Saturday, sparking an angry backlash from fans back home.
The Black Caps in contrast have been riding high with their horses for courses policy paying rich dividends against India and Australia.
New Zealand are perched on top of Group 2 with four points followed by India and Pakistan on two each from as many games.
Skipper Kane Williamson has won plaudits after he packed his side with unheralded spinners and leaving out tested fast bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee in the key opening game against favourites India.
Their strategy worked well against Australia too with rookie spinners Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi combining with recalled paceman Mitchell McClenaghan to wreak havoc in the opposition ranks.
McClenaghan was a surprise replacement for Nathan McCullum, one of the heroes of New Zealand’s dramatic victory over India.
“I think we were fortunate to play on two wickets which were very similar. We adopted similar tactics,” Williamson said after the win over his trans-Tasman rivals.
“You have to try and read the conditions and select accordingly.”
Another win will see New Zealand cruise through to the knockout stage of the tournament which would be a commendable feat for a young side.
Afridi, 36, will be under pressure to deliver after taking flak for his tactics against India.
Former Pakistani spin great Saqlain Mushtaq was surprised at the team selection by Afridi, who is tipped to retire at the end of the WT20.
“They couldn’t read the pitch. For such a high profile match they should have played a proper spinner,” Mushtaq was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency on Sunday.
“It was not a pitch to field four fast bowlers,” he said.
Pakistan (from): Shahid Afridi (captain), Anwar Ali, Imad Wasim, Khalid Latif, Khurram Manzoor, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Sami, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Sharjeel Khan, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz
New Zealand (from): Kane Williamson (captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Martin Guptill, Grant Elliott, Colin Munro, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Adam Milne, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor