After a chastening end to the Twenty20 series, the Pakistan cricket team will have little time to pick up the pieces before switching to the 50-over format for the first of three one-day international meetings with New Zealand on Monday. It promises to be an arduous task, with the positive start of Pakistan’s tour already a distant memory.
Pakistan claimed victory in the opening T20I, but were then on the receiving end as New Zealand racked up records in matches two and three. First came a world-record 171-run opening partnership between Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson to lead the Black Caps to a 10-wicket win in Hamilton, before the series was decided in Wellington on Friday with New Zealand securing a 95-run victory, their largest ever win and Pakistan’s worst-ever defeat in the 20-over format.
For Pakistan, it was a worrying way to prepare for the World Twenty20, which begins in India in less than two months’ time. In contrast, it has further established New Zealand as one of the leading contenders to take home the trophy. Helping their cause, they can also count on recent experience of a deep run at a global competition.
Last year, New Zealand made it to their first ever World Cup final before losing the final of the one-day showpiece to neighbors Australia. Many of those who fuelled New Zealand’s run in that tournament will again be in action when the ODI series gets underway next week, making Pakistan’s task of bouncing back an even tougher one. Likely to be included is all-rounder Corey Anderson, with the series set to act as another opportunity for him to build fitness after he made his bowling return in the recent T20 matches.
There will, though, be some notable absentees. Pace bowler Tim Southee remains sidelined with a foot injury and is targeting a return for New Zealand’s Test series against Australia next month. That high-profile series will also act as the swansong for the man who captained New Zealand to the World Cup final, Brendon McCullum. The 34-year-old announced in December that he would step away from international cricket after taking on Australia, but his participation for the one-day matches with Pakistan have been jeopardized by a back injury. However, coach Mike Hesson revealed this week that he anticipates the Black Caps skipper returning for the final ODI at the end of the month.
“I expect him back in camp on the 29th, at this stage that's what we're hopeful for,” Hesson told Radio Sport in New Zealand. “Brendon's had plenty of rehab. He's traveling well but it is one of those things that can flare up from time to time, but we're pretty confident that he'll be back with us on the 29th.”
Under McCullum, New Zealand have risen into fourth place in the official ODI rankings, some way above Pakistan, who sit down in eighth. After a disappointing World Cup, Pakistan have won series against both Zimbabwe, twice, and Sri Lanka, but finished the year with a heavy 3-1 loss to England. And they have also lost two recent ODI series against New Zealand.
The team will be under the charge of Azhar Ali, who was the surprising choice to take over the captaincy following last year’s World Cup, and who didn’t feature in the T20 series. Meanwhile, the T20 captain Shahid Afridi is no longer part of the one-day setup.
Pakistan ODI squad for New Zealand series
Azhar Ali (Captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Sohaib Maqsood, Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Zafar Gohar, Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed, Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Muhammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir.
Series schedule (all times EST)
1st ODI: Sunday, Jan. 24 at 5 p.m. (Basin Reserve, Wellington)
2nd ODI: Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. (McLean Park, Napier)
3rd ODI: Saturday, Jan. 31 at 5 p.m. (Eden Park, Auckland)