Mountain to climb

Salvaging anything from the ongoing series against New Zealand is an uphill task for Pakistan, writes K Shahid

Mountain to climb
The rain might have tilted the already lopsided matchups in the hosts’ favour, but no one can argue that Pakistan were on the ropes in both the ODIs before the heavens interfered.

While the first ODI was perhaps inclined more towards New Zealand than the second, Pakistan would probably be more disappointed in the Wellington game being washed out. For, even though 166/6 in 30.1 overs chasing 316 is hardly a position you’d want to be in, a settled Fakhar Zaman and a quick off the blocks Faheem Ashraf could’ve done some damage – even if not decisive – in the next few overs.

In the second game, New Zealand were comfortable at 64/2 in 14 overs, chasing 247, before rain reduced the target to 151 in 25 overs. Just how at ease the hosts were before the break can be gauged from the manner in which they cantered home in the 24th over without losing any further wickets, spearheaded by Martin Guptill’s dominant 86 off 71 balls.

Hasan Ali

But the game would’ve been over long before the rain actually came to play had it not been for the counterattack led by Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan with the bat. Pakistan’s last three wickets managed to score over 100 runs in the final 13 overs,with Hasan Ali (51 off 31) and Shadab Khan (52 off 68) giving a few lessons to those that are above them in the batting order on how to bat on these decks.

Even though the bowling hasn’t exactly fired in either ODI, it’s the batting that needs to take the responsibility for Pakistan being 2-0 down and staring at a comprehensive series defeat ahead of Saturday’s third ODI at Dunedin.

Martin Guptill

Azhar Ali has scored 6 runs each in the first ODIs, scoring a boundary and getting out LBW to Tim Southee in both the matches. Babar Azam has scored 10 in total, with a first ball duck in Wellington. Shoaib Malik has 40 runs (13 and 27) and should be disappointed with his failures to score more after getting his eye in on both occasions.

Despite his successes as the captain, and reliability behind the wickets, Sarfraz Ahmed’s batting has continued to slump. He has scored a collective 11 runs in the series so far, and played an uncharacteristic 8 off 23 innings while the team chased 316 in the first, and a completely senseless shot in the second to get out.
Even though the bowling hasn't exactly fired in either ODI, it's the batting that is responsible for Pakistan being 2-0 down

Mohammad Hafeez (60 off 71) at Nelson, and Fakhar Zaman (82* off 86) at Wellington are the only two frontline batsmen to have scored a half century in the first two ODIs. The latter missed the second ODI owing to injury, but it was his batting in the first that is founded upon the recipe for success in these conditions, against this opposition, outside the Subcontinent: on the front foot – metaphorically.

Pakistan’s recent ODI successes, which included the historic Champions Trophy run, were based on the bowling restricting the opposition to scores of less than 250. The Champions Trophy final is perhaps the only match in this run that one could say was won with the bat.

Rain halted play in both ODIs

Despite Pakistan’s impressive array of bowlers, it is exceedingly hard to beat New Zealand away without a score in excess of 300, or restricting them to less than 250 when they bat first.

The bowlers themselves have a lot to do, considering that everyone barring Shadab Khan went for over 6 runs per over at Wellington, and all except Mohammed Amir conceded more than a run a ball – Shadab, Hasan Ali and Rumman Raees going for over 7 runs per over at Nelson.

Mohammed Hafeez

The bowlers haven’t been able to take early wickets, with the Kiwis reaching 150 at around the 25th-over mark for the loss of two wickets in both the games. That is the foundation for scores comfortably over 300.

So yes: Pakistan have it all to do at Dunedin, if they want to rescue anything from the series. A proper comeback might appear to be more than just a stretch, but considering the ODI successes Pakistan can ill-afford a one-sided walloping in New Zealand.

The team should just focus on winning the third ODI. After that, anything can happen.