New Zealand will take on Pakistan in the sides’ third and final one-day international in Auckland on Sunday (Saturday EST), with the hosts looking to put the seal on another series victory and warm up for the visit of Australia in style. After the second 50-over clash was rained out in Napier on Thursday, New Zealand will take a 1-0 lead to Eden Park in their final match before taking on Australia over three ODIs and two Test matches, beginning next Wednesday.
Having already beaten Sri Lanka over Test, ODI and Twenty20 formats, as well as taking their T20 series with Pakistan 2-1, it has been a productive summer so far for the Black Caps. And it would be understandable if thoughts were already turning to the contests with their fierce local rivals, especially as captain Brendon McCullum, who will retire after the Australia series, will be returning to the squad for the final match with Pakistan. The 34-year-old, who led New Zealand to the final of the World Cup last year, has been nursing a back injury, but will, if fully fit, will aim to regain his sharpness ahead of his big farewell.
Yet New Zealand bowling coach Dimitri Mascarenhas, who himself will be stepping down after the tour by Australia, has dismissed any suggestion that the team would be overlooking Pakistan on Sunday.
“In cricket, players and coaches are only thinking about the next game, that's most important,” he said, reports the New Zealand Herald. “We've got a big series against Pakistan, then we look ahead to the Australian one-dayers a few days after that. Pakistan are a very strong team, and showed glimpses of that at the Basin [last Monday], so we want to be on top of our game on Sunday.”
For Pakistan, the tour of New Zealand has provided few positives so far, and has continued their poor form in limited-overs cricket from a 3-1 ODI series defeat to England. Their performances in New Zealand have been such that speculation in Pakistan suggested head coach Waqar Younis was even contemplating stepping down from his role. Yet the former fast bowler has dismissed such talk on the eve of his side’s attempts to level up the series.
“I have no intention of stepping down. It has become a trend in the media to cook up such things when the team is not performing well,” he said, according to Pakistan news outlet Dawn. “The tour has not turned out as well as we had imagined but New Zealand is always tough. In all the games we were guilty of not finishing well when we got in a good position.”
Still, there is some encouragement for Pakistan, with the one victory they have secured in New Zealand, in the opening T20 international two weeks ago, coming at the same Eden Park venue where Sunday’s match will take place.
Pakistan could be unchanged from their 70-run defeat in the opening ODI on Monday, but there will be changes for New Zealand. As well as potentially welcoming back McCullum, fast bowler Mitchell McClenaghan has been ruled out, of both Sunday’s encounter and the one-day series with Australia, with a fracture above his left eye.
Match time: Saturday, 5 p.m. EST
Live stream: ESPN3