Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
New Zealand vs Pakistan | Friday 15 January | Eden Park | 07:30
Both New Zealand and Pakistan will have one eye on the World T20 set to get underway in March when they go head to head in the first of three T20 Internationals at Eden Park in Auckland this Friday.
The Black Caps come into this series fresh off a series whitewash against Sri Lanka. Pakistan on the other hand, haven’t played any international cricket since their disappointing limited overs performance against England.
To Win Match
New Zealand 4/10
New Zealand have been in sensational form of late, as much was evident in their complete and utter dismantling of Sri Lanka earlier on this month. They have one of the most settled squads in the world at the minute and look like they can beat anyone.
Kane Williamson will captain a side which includes the batting power of Corey Anderson, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliot, Colin Munro and Luke Ronchi – all of whom are more than capable of taking the game away from the opposition in the blink of an eye.
I can’t really preview this game without mentioning the exploits of Guptill and Munro in the second and final T20 against Sri Lanka last week. Chasing a modest total of 143, Guptill set the fastest fifty for a New Zealander on his way to a typically destructive 63 from just 25 balls. He was outshone by Munro, who managed to paste the Sri Lankan bowling attack to all parts of the Eden Park on his way to a 16-ball half century – a record only bettered by Yuvraj Singh’s 12-ball fifty against England in the 2007 edition of the World T20.
They don’t look too bad in the bowling department either with Trent Boult leading the attack. He’ll be supported by the outstanding Matt Henry, who has absolutely destroyed Sri Lanka when given the opportunity to play. In one ODI and one T20, he bagged eight wickets while only conceding 80 runs. It’s been a remarkable comeback for the quick who underwent major back surgery in 2012. He currently holds the record for the third-best bowling figures for a New Zealander on debut, taking 4-38 against India in 2014.
The Black Caps look good value to put in a decent showing in this series as they prepare for the World T20 in India. They have one of the more settled batting line-ups in world cricket at the minute and shouldn’t really lose out to this inconsistent Pakistani side.
All eyes will be on Mohammad Amir should he be selected in the starting XI this Friday. Amir was handed a five-year ban on February 2011 after spot-fixing during Pakistan's tour of England in 2010. The player’s agent, Mazhar Majeed, was approached by undercover reporter, Mazher Mahmood, for information that Amir and fellow quick Mohammad Asif would bowl no balls at certain points in a game. The no balls were bowled precisely as Majeed said they would be, and Amir, Asif, as well as Salman Butt were handed bans.
While the Pakistani public has had mixed reactions to his inclusion in the side, there is no doubting his quality – and at just 23-years of age, he still has his best years ahead of him. He has kept himself fit and put in some excellent performances in the Bangladesh Premier League, bagging 14 wickets in nine games for the Chittagong Vikings. His ability to swing the ball both ways at pace has seen him likened to his hero, Wasim Akram. It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on during this tour, keep an eye out for him.
The side will be captained by the evergreen Shahid Afridi, who also put in a good showing in the last edition of the BPL. His ability with the bat as well as with the ball will be key to Pakistan’s chances of getting one over this vastly talented New Zealand side. His belligerence with the bat – something he made his name with in the earlier part of his career – has taken a bit of a back seat of late. He is now very much considered a leg-spinning all-rounder whose variations and changes of pace bamboozle even the most seasoned batsmen.
Ahmed Shehzad has also been given another crack after his failures against England at the backend of 2015. He’ll know full well that he needs to get a few runs under his belt if he is going to travel with the squad to India in March.
Overall, I think Pakistan have a decent looking squad heading into this match. Amir and Wahab Riaz will provide a stern test of the New Zealand top order who barely broke a sweat against a very undercooked Sri Lankan bowling attack. It’s with the bat that I think the Pakistanis may struggle a bit. Shehzad is struggling a bit and Umar Akmal isn’t available for the first T20. There’s a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed and Afridi to deliver as senior players.
Verdict: New Zealand 4/10
There’s not much value on offer here with New Zealand at 4/10, however, they should really claim a routine victory against the Afridi and his men and I’d definitely recommend adding a New Zealand win to your weekend multiple. Alternatively, take a look at our In-Running markets on the day for a bit more value.
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