Going into the first T20 against Pakistan, New Zealand had looked invincible at home. They had completely dominated the Sri Lankans in a series that featured all three formats, from start to end. But, Pakistan gave them a rude awakening. It was mentioned in the preview that although, on paper, New Zealand remained favourites, Pakistan could never be underestimated. The Kiwis definitely did not, but they just weren’t good enough to stand up to the Pakistani challenge at Eden Park. The hosts will now have to do some homework as they return to the field at Hamilton in their endeavour to square the series.
A middle-order collapse is what cost the Kiwis the first match. Even as Colin Munro blazed away after the early dismissal of Martin Guptill, the middle order of Corey Anderson, Grant Elliot, Luke Ronchi and Mitchell Santner all fell in single-figure scores as the hosts crumbled in a challenging chase of 172. This definitely had something to do with the fact that New Zealand’s top-order was scintillating against Sri Lanka. As a result, the middle order never got a look in, and the rustiness came to the fore at Auckland, as New Zealand collapsed in unexpected fashion.
The big difference between Pakistan and Sri Lanka as far as New Zealand is concerned is the fact that the former has a much more potent bowling attack as compared to the Lankans. With Mohammad Amir’s comeback that has only become stronger although the pacer only had a supporting role to play in the victory. In Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz, they have two fast bowlers, who are capable of winning games in T20 as well. Also, Imad Wasim has settled in nicely into the role of a restrictive left-arm spinner in the format.
New Zealand lost at Auckland despite two of their batsmen scoring fifties. But, while Munro was super quick, Kane Williamson struggled early on with the bat, only picking up the rate towards the end. He also ran out the in-form Martin Guptill. New Zealand will be looking forward to better efforts from Guptill and their skipper even as the return of Ross Taylor will bolster their batting. The middle-order cannot repeat the Auckland show though. Trent Boult had a rare off-day in the first game, which contributed to New Zealand’s downfall. The Kiwis, for sure, need to pick up their overall game at Hamilton.
Pakistan will be elated with the start they have made to the series. Both their batting and bowling were much better than the hosts, which has put them in a great position. Mohammad Hafeez came up with a quick half-century at the top, while Shahid Afridi played a blazing cameo towards the end. In the bowling, Wasim was brilliant, conceding under five runs an over even as Afridi, Riaz and Gul distributed the wickets among themselves. The hosts will fight back hard for sure, and Pakistan must be prepared for the same.
--By A Cricket Analyst