At the back of poor performances in their first few games, it appeared as if Pakistan's World Cup 2019 campaign was over until they registered an impressive win against South Africa to remain in contention for a semi-final spot.
However, this fixture won't be easy at all as New Zealand have been in superb form throughout the World Cup. Apart from India, New Zealand is the only side to have remained unbeaten in the World Cup so far.
Pakistan though will come into the contest after having put in a terrific batting performance which proved too much to handle for South Africa. This win was important considering that Pakistan had a terrible campaign before that with just 3 points on the board from five games.
Generally, a team that is coming off an impressive win wouldn't want to tinker with their team combination. In consideration of that fact, let us have a look at Pakistan's predicted playing 11.
Fakhar Zaman, Imam Ul Haq
Pakistan's opening pair of Fakhar Zaman and Imam Ul Haq set up a fantastic platform for the middle order against South Africa with their 81-run stand. They will look to take it one step forward and post big scores of their own to tackle New Zealand's potent bowling unit.
Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed
It took just one player and one special performance to give a good look to Pakistan's middle order. Haris Sohail's 59-ball 89 against South Africa was stamped with class that critics started to question Sohail's absence from the team in the prior encounters.
Pakistan's best batsman, Babar Azam also had a good day against South Africa as he scored a fifty and stitched an 81-run stand with Haris Sohail. The fact that he hasn't converted any of his starts in the tournament is the only criticism that can be levelled against him.
The team's war horse, Mohammad Hafeez, has been in fine touch right from the beginning of the tournament but he has been guilty of throwing away his wicket in innocuous ways. The experienced batsman will be keen to lead his team against NZ.
Meanwhile, skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed has had an average tournament with both his batting and glovework. He only has one fifty to his name till now.
Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan
Pakistan's two spin bowling all-rounders, Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan lend a lot of balance to the team. While Wasim is really underrated as a finisher, he has also found more consistency with his left-arm spin bowling.
Shadab Khan came back into wicket-taking form with three wickets against South Africa. He will look to continue that against New Zealand.
Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Shah Afridi
As usual, Pakistan's left-arm fast bowling trio will be expected to cause early damage against New Zealand. In particular, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir have been pretty good in the tournament. Shoddy catching has been the only reason Riaz doesn't have as many wickets as Amir.
Despite such poor catching, Riaz has taken 8 wickets and quite a few have come during the death overs. His conducive action has meant that he has been able to get the old ball to reverse like no other bowler in this World Cup.
Undoubtedly Pakistan's best bowler in this competition, Mohamamd Amir has had a fantastic campaign with 15 wickets in just five games. He seems to be slowly getting back to his best and Pakistan will hope that his quality swing bowling can rattle New Zealand's batting line up.
On the other hand, the 19-year old Shaheen Shah Afridi should keep his place in the side despite an average performance against South Africa. Pakistan only have Mohammad Hasnain as an alternative and it doesn't seem like the team want to play him in such a crucial fixture.
Babar Azam- Probably one of the first names on the team sheet, Babar Azam carries a lot of hope on his shoulders every time he walks in to bat. Such expectations are bound to be there there due to his impeccable career record.
Azam averages 51.22 from 69 ODI matches. He also has a superb conversion rate with 14 fifties and nine hundreds. However, he has been unable to convert his starts. At some point, he needs to step up and get a big knock. There won't be a more important match to do that than the one against New Zealand.
Wahab Riaz- Like Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz's selection in the World Cup squad was also a major gamble. After all, Riaz hadn't played a single match for Pakistan since the 2017 Champions Trophy. Pakistan trusted him on the basis of experience and it can be said that he has repaid them to an extent by being their second best bowler in the World Cup.
Predicted Playing 11
Fakhar Zaman, Imam Ul Haq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed (C/WK), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Also read - World cup all time recordsPublished 25 Jun 2019, 20:42 IST