This was a much closer contest than what anything Pakistan had experienced against Australia in the previous series. New Zealand's bowlers were much more effective and Colin Munro nearly took the game away from them single-handedly. But as it happened in the previous series, the bowlers pulled out the side with crucial wickets in crunch situations, which has eventually led to the hosts winning the first T20I by 2 runs.
PREVIEW: After a resounding victory over Australia in the Test and T20I series, Pakistan will look to extend their dominance over the other half of the Trans-Tasman rivalry – New Zealand. The visitors will start a long tour of the UAE with a three-match T20I series starting on Wednesday.
New Zealand’s biggest challenge heading into the series is to arrest the run-flow from Babar Azam’s bat. Pakistan’s in-form batsman has registered scores of 50, 45, 68*, 51 and 97 in his last five T20I outings, during which his average reads 103.66 along with a tremendous strike-rate of 131.22. But he is fighting a lone battle as the middle order has failed to deliver in the games against Australia, failing to build on the good start provided in all the games by the top three. And with Fakhar Zaman sidelined with a knee injury, which led to him missing out the third T20I, Shoaib Malik, who will join the side on the day of the game after the birth of his child, Sarfraz Ahmed, Asif Ali and Mohammad Hafeez need to step up to compensate for the missing southpaw. Pakistan’s bowling, unlike their batsmen, were a cohesive unit, managing to defend below-par scores of 155, 147 and 150 in the matches against Australia but they will be facing a stiffer task with the likes of Colin Munro, captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor instead of Australia’s inexperienced batsmen.
While New Zealand does boast of better-seasoned players, the remainder of the squad have the same Achilles Heel as their Trans-Tasman rivals – spin bowling. Apart from Williamson and Taylor, the rest of the line-up are susceptible, something Shadab Khan, the highest wicket-taker in the previous series (6) and Imad Wasim will be looking to capitalize on. A notable return for the Kiwis is that of all-rounder Corey Anderson. The 27-year-old had to miss out on 16 months of international cricket due to back troubles, with his previous game for New Zealand being in the 2017 Champions Trophy. Anderson will have Colin de Grandhomme to give him company as an all-rounder. A big miss for the visitors will be the services of Mitchell Santner, who was ruled out for nine months after his right knee problem worsened in March, which has given room for uncapped 30-year-old Ajaz Patel. The left-arm spinner will have Ish Sodhi to partner him in the spin department. Tim Southee and Adam Milne are likely to make up the pace attack, with Lockie Ferguson maybe getting a look-in instead of the latter.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Sahibzada Farhan, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Khan Shanwari, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Corey Anderson, Mark Chapman, Lockie Ferguson, Colin de Grandhomme, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Ajaz Patel, Glenn Phillips, Seth Rance, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.