New Zealand will host Pakistan in the first T20I clash in 3-matches T20I series. The hosts are unbeaten this home season with recent success over West Indies, while Pakistan had last played to England Down Under and drew the series 1-1.
Match Timings: Dec 18, 11:30 AM IST
The COVID cases and the long quarantine distracted Pakistan on the New Zealand tour, and on Friday, they will kick start the tour with the opening T20I match in Auckland. Ahead of the T20I series, Pakistan suffered a big blow as the captain Babar Azam has been ruled out of the series, and Shadab Khan will lead the side in this series. Fortunately, he is fit, and Pakistan has named Shadab, the new captain in the 15-man squad, announced on Thursday.
Pakistan is the balanced T20 side, and they have lost just one game this year in the shorter format. In the absence of Babar Azam, Pakistan can try either Abdullah Shafique or Mohammed Rizwan in the opening slot along with Haider Ali. In middle-order, Mohammed Hafeez will have a big responsibility. The veteran all-rounder was a player of the series in the England series, scoring 155 runs in two innings. This time, the pace-attack is dangerous with Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf, who had great numbers in the domestic T20 season this year. Wahab Riaz will play as the third seamer, and he is in good form. Imad Wasim and Sahdab Khan would be the key figures in the spin. Considering that New Zealand rested its key players in the first T20I, Pakistan has the best opportunity to take the early lead in the series.
Meanwhile, the Hosts will be led by Mitchell Santner, and they are coming off a 2-0 T20I series win against West Indies. They lost to India and England in last home summer in this format. Kane Williamson will be back in the final two T20Is as captain. Lockie Ferguson has been rested after an injury against West Indies. Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, and Daryl Mitchell will also miss this opening game, and Kiwis would rely on young pacers.
The bowling attack would be a big issue for the Blackcaps, but the batting would be the best part of the hosts. Glenn Phillips scored a fabulous ton in the WI series, and Devon Conway impressed in his debut series, scoring 106 runs in two outings at a strike rate of 160.61. Guptill hasn’t impressed in the last few T20Is, and New Zealand would expect him to give a good start in the absence of Williamson and Taylor. It’s not easy to stop Pakistan in the T20 format, and the Kiwis suffered issues earlier in this format against the Asian sides. Pakistan can only blame themselves if they lose against a weak New Zealand side.
Eden Park is a fine batting surface, and short boundaries can help the batting sides to score a good amount of runs. With the extra seam, pacers can take help from the pitch in the first half an hour. We may expect a cracking T20 game with chasing sides having the final laugh.
The weather in Auckland is partly cloudy, and the temperature on Friday will be around 23 degrees. There is no rain prediction on match-day.
Mitchell Santner (c), Martin Guptill, Todd Astle, Doug Bracewell, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Jacob Duffy, Scott Kuggeleijn, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Blair Tickner
Shadab Khan (c), Abdullah Shafique/Faheem Ashraf, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan/Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Shaheen Shah Afridi, Wahab Riaz
In England series – M: 3, Runs: 155, SR: 176.14
Home T20I series – M: 3, Wickets: 6, Avg: 15.67
WI series 2020 – Innings: 2, Runs: 130, SR: 224.14
Last T20I – 108 (51)
WI series 2020 – 41 (29), 65 (37)