New Zealand hopes for middle-order revival

Hamilton : In New Zealand, Sri Lanka have gone the extra mile to do Pakistan a favour by scoring so few runs in the previous series that New Zealand did not need their middle order to defeat them. That middle order then turned up rusty against Pakistan, on Friday. Corey Anderson, Grant Elliott, Mitchell Santner and Luke Ronchi all fell for single figures, within 18 runs of each other. The hosts’ chase never recovered.

It is the variety, quality and experience in Pakistan’s attack that appears the greatest threat to New Zealand this series. In Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul and Mohammad Amir, the visitors have three sharp quicks, each with his own particular mode of attack. Imad Wasim has delivered tight left-arm spin since his arrival at the top level last year, while Shahid Afridi’s legspin continues to prosper. They also have Shoaib Malik’s part-time off-breaks, should any of their frontline options falter.

New Zealand were without their best bowler, Tim Southee and the most experienced batsman, Ross Taylor for that first game. However, Taylor’s likely return in Hamilton will bolster that middle order. The openers will be eager regain their tone-setting form as well. Kane Williamson was made to seem human in that first match, having dropped a catch, run his partner out and made a stalling start to his own innings. Mistakes from him have been both rare and rarely repeated.

In two Eden Park T20s, Colin Munro has struck 106 from 41 deliveries, sealing one game and keeping his team alive in the other. His clean striking has almost filled the firepower void left by Brendon McCullum’s absence. Munro has one foot in the World T20 squad. Another decent innings in either of the two coming matches will ensure he is on that flight to India.

He may be approaching the end of his career, but Shahid Afridi is still the life of this Pakistan team’s party, cracking cameos from the middle order, striking star-man poses and occasionally engaging teammates in animated on-field discussions. He hit a rapid 23, took two wickets and claimed three catches on Friday. Seddon Park is not quite as small as the ground in Auckland, but its dimensions will still suit Afridi’s manic hitting.

Taylor’s return after a one-match rest will probably force one of the frontline spinners out of the side. With New Zealand having seen plenty of Mitchell Santner over their summer, maybe they will give Todd Astle another run. Mitchell McClenaghan may also play, depending on whether he has recovered from the niggle that kept him out on Friday.

Taylor’s return after a one-match rest will probably force one of the front line spinners out of the side. With New Zealand having seen plenty of Mitchell Santner over their summer, maybe they will give Todd Astle another run. Mitchell McClenaghan may also play, depending on whether he has recovered from the niggle that kept him out on Friday.

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