Against India, Pakistan may have had revenge on their minds. Revenge for their previous losses in World Cups, revenge for the disagreeable advertisements that have sadly become a way to market the famed rivalry, revenge for the manner in which they were written off ahead of the clash.
The notion of revenge appeared to bring the best out of Pakistan, who mauled their southern neighbors by 10 wickets to make a real statement at the 2021 T20 World Cup. Just two days later, they embark on their next quest in the marquee ICC event. Strangely, while thinking of ways to motivate themselves so soon after their unprecedented win against India, the word "revenge" might pop up again.
New Zealand stand opposite Pakistan - the same New Zealand that pulled out of their Pakistan tour citing security reasons back in September, throwing both sides' T20 World Cup preparations out of the window. The Men in Green showed no signs of being unprepared against India, but the Kiwis have played only five T20Is since the start of April.
While the fact that all five of them came on the slowest of tracks in Bangladesh will please New Zealand when it comes to preparing for what's going to be on offer in Sharjah, the other irrefutable fact that the Blackcaps' shortcomings were blatantly exposed won't. New Zealand lost three of the five T20Is to concede the series, and it's clear that they must bring their 'A' game to beat Pakistan.
T20 World Cup 2021: Pakistan aim to complete near-impossible task of topping India win
Consistency isn't something Pakistan are often associated with, and they've gained a reputation for being unstoppable one day and pushovers the next. Against a talented New Zealand side, they can't afford to be at anything but their best.
Granted, the Kiwis lost both of their warm-up games and their batting lineup doesn't seem like it has the capability to adjust to the wicket in Sharjah, especially in the middle overs. But New Zealand have been awfully clutch in ICC events over the last few years. They seem to raise their game to another level in World Cups, even when the odds are stacked against them.
In Kane Williamson, who admittedly isn't in the greatest T20 form right now, New Zealand have a stable leader who holds the batting lineup together. Devon Conway has shattered records since making his New Zealand debut, but Williamson is still the main man. With inconsistent players like Martin Guptill, Tim Seifert and Glenn Phillips part of the batting lineup, the onus is on the Kiwi skipper to do the bulk of the run-scoring.
Meanwhile, Pakistan will hope that their in-form openers, who have made 2021 their own with a series of stats-defying partnerships, keep things going against the plethora of talented swing bowlers at New Zealand's disposal. Pakistan's middle order hasn't been exposed in the T20 World Cup so far, and it is considered to be a vulnerability. Whether it can survive the spin threat of Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner will also determine the course of the game.
Overall, Pakistan vs New Zealand hints at being a low-scoring encounter where the powerplay will play a crucial role, much like the other matches that have transpired in Sharjah in this year's T20 World Cup.
While the Blackcaps have a world-class bowling lineup that is capable of winning matches on their own, Pakistan certainly have momentum and match practice on their side. Babar Azam's men can be expected to emerge victorious once again, assuming their batting - and especially the middle order - holds up against New Zealand.
Prediction: Pakistan to win Match 19 of the T20 World Cup
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