Big picture – Place in the semi-finals at stake
New Zealand vs Pakistan is one of the games with extremely high stakes left in the league stage of the World Cup. Till some days ago, it looked like the four semi-finalists were locked in, with New Zealand in there and Pakistan just out. Things have changed since.
The turn for the worse for New Zealand has been dramatic. After four wins on the trot at the start of the league stage, form has fallen by the wayside, and defeats (three in a row) and player injuries have mounted. As number of their players are nursing injuries at the moment – though they trained in Bengaluru on the eve of this game – a couple more results not going their way could mean New Zealand dropping out of the top four.
But while worries of New Zealand’s slump might have a kernel of logic to them, reports of Pakistan’s ascent are almost certainly exaggerated. A couple of results falling their way might have made them dream of the semi-finals once more, but the only contribution Babar Azam’s own side has made towards that came in the form of a comfortable win against Bangladesh, one of the poorest sides in the tournament. It was preceded by four successive defeats that put them in the pickle they find themselves in now. And concerns around Pakistan’s inability to convert starts, the brittleness of the middle order, and the inconsistency of the bowlers remains.
Being a flawed side, however, hasn’t stopped Pakistan at ICC tournaments before, and once more, there are hints of just enough pieces beginning to fall into place in the jigsaw.
On Saturday, New Zealand will try to cling on to what they have, while Pakistan will try and snatch it away from them. This World Cup has not had enough close games, but a tense scrap for fourth place could well bring it on.
New Zealand LLLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight – Trent Boult and Pakistan’s spinners
Team news – Will Jamieson play?
New Zealand (possible): 1 Devon Conway, 2 Will Young, 3 Rachin Ravindra, 4 Daryl Mitchell, 5 Tom Latham (capt & wk), 6 Glenn Phillips, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 James Neesham, 9 Kyle Jamieson, 10 Tim Southee/Lockie Ferguson, 11 Trent Boult
Fakhar’s return to form means he will keep his spot at the top of the order, and while Agha Salman was not required with either bat or ball against Bangladesh, he is expected to keep his place ahead of Nawaz.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Abdullah Shafique, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 5 Saud Shakeel, 6 Iftikhar Ahmed, 7 Agha Salman, 8 Shadab Khan/Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Mohammad Wasim, 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 11 Haris Rauf
Pitch and conditions
The weather for the first half of this morning game looks clear, but gloomier skies lie in wait later. There’s a high chance that the second half of this game will impacted by rain, which could make the toss vital.
Stats and trivia
“No excuse, but it [not playing the IPL] has been [a disadvantage]. And the interesting thing has been that every ground we’ve been to has been a new venue for our players, which is exciting. The players have really embraced that and they’ve enjoyed that fact because they’ve watched IPL on TV and they’ve seen Test matches at iconic grounds like Eden Gardens, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai.”
Pakistan team director Mickey Arthur
“They’re a world-class team and they have been for a long time. We’ve played a lot of cricket against them, which is awesome for us. We loved touring Pakistan a few months ago and to be able to take them on here now in the World Cup’s cool.”
New Zealand batter Daryl Mitchell
Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000