About the Match
After a successful series against visiting West Indies, New Zealand is ready to host Pakistan in a 5-match ODI series followed by a 3-match T20 series, starting with the 1st ODI at Wellington on 6th January. While Pakistan is riddling some injury issues and could field a different squad than the one seen in the Sri Lanka series, New Zealand too is making some changes to its team that featured against the Windies recently. The last time Pakistan toured New Zealand in 2015-16, the hosts had won the ODI series 2-0, and would be eager to keep it that way; it needs to be seen which team can exhibit an all-round performance on Saturday and get a winning start.
Martin Guptill makes a return to the ODI squad after injury and will feature in the first two ODIs; Kane Williamson will lead the side and adds depth to the batting contingent along with players like Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls and Ross Taylor. Colin Munro and Guptill are expected to open the innings and stabilize it with their good form while others like Taylor, Nicholls and Latham could keep the scoreboard ticking.
Spinners Todd Astle, who made his ODI debut against West Indies recently and took 4 wickets in 3 matches along with scoring 49 runs at No.7, and Mitchell Santner, who features in the top 10 ODI bowlers in the world, will try to stifle the visitors who are yet to acclimatise to the conditions here.
The pace attack has experienced bowlers like Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, who had been consistently taking wickets in the ongoing Super Smash T20 series, Matt Henry, Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson. Most of the players have been doing well in the domestic circuit recently and could come out all guns blazing here to upset the Pakistanis.
Sarfraz Ahmed will lead the side that consists of batsmen like Azhar Ali, who will replace opener Ahmed Shehzad who is ruled out due to injury, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam and Aamer Yamin, who has impressed with his all-rounder skills as a seamer and middle order batsman scoring 700 runs and taking 32 wickets in the 2013-14 season. He has done well subsequently in the domestic circuit and this is a good opportunity for him to prove his worth in the international arena.
Spin bowling all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz comes in as replacement for Imad Wasim, who is out due to injury, and leg spinner Shadab Khan, who has been played the Big Bash League for Brisbane, brings in variety to the attack. Speedsters Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Aamer Yamin and Rumman Raees could provide quick breakthroughs and prove to be a tough nut to crack.
Overall, despite losing key players due to injury, Pakistan could still pose a stiff challenge to the Kiwis here; the batsmen will fight hard to build a solid foundation whether batting first or during chase while the bowlers could bring on their A-game here to surprise the hosts.
New Zealand has been on a winning roll and could put up a tough fight against the Pakistani pace attack; while the contest could go down to the wire, we feel that the Kiwis with the home advantage are clear favourites to win the match