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Thursday, April 18 2024
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Weakened New Zealand all set for T20I experience in Pakistan

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Photo Credit : IANS

Lahore: Second-rung players from New Zealand that are not injured or involved in the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) are set to lock horns with a full-strength Pakistan squad in a five-match T20I series, starting with the first game here on Friday.

During the time when the best players of world cricket are involved in IPL, the New Zealand tour of Pakistan — comprising five T20Is and as many ODIs — promises some riveting international action.

Hosts Pakistan have picked a star-studded T20I squad, boosted by the return of pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi, who is all set to play for the first time in international cricket since the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Final against England in November 2022.

Though he returns to play international cricket after a four-month gap, Afridi has been busy picking up silverware and smashing records in Pakistan. During the recent Pakistan Super League (PSL), the ace pacer led Lahore Qalandars to the trophy, thus becoming the first captain to win the PSL twice.

Also returning to the squad are Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman and Haris Rauf, all of whom were rested for the Afghanistan T20I series in Sharjah. Pakistan will be pleased to see their star T20I players back in action as they were dearly missed when Afghanistan trounced them 2-1.

“The T20 World Cup is over a year away and we will look to utilise the next five games to see where we stand,” Babar Azam said during the pre-match interaction with the media.

“They will also help us gear up for the crucial five-match ODI series that follows as more or less we have the same players in this team and that series will provide us a good opportunity to prepare for the Asia Cup and World Cup later in the year,” he said.

New Zealand have a huge challenge in front of them. Not only are they playing T20Is in Pakistan for the first time but they will do so with several of their key players absent, including regular skipper Kane Williamson.

With numerous players currently involved in IPL, the inexperienced Black Caps will be led by Tom Latham. However, they can take heart from their performance in the ODI series against Pakistan three months ago, where they emerged 2-1 victors, although with a much stronger squad at their disposal.

The Kiwis will be banking on the experience of their stand-in captain Latham, Jimmy Neesham, Matt Henry, Daryl Mitchell and Ish Sodhi to put up a fight against a full-strength Pakistan.

The presence of their recently-signed assistant coach Saqlain Mushtaq could come in handy, who knows the conditions in Lahore and Rawalpindi all too well.

“Conditions are completely different to what we’re used to back home and it’s going to be important that we adapt as quickly as possible,” Latham was quoted as saying by ICC in a report on its website..

“We’ll lean on the experiences we had on the tour here a couple of months ago where we managed to play some good cricket in both the Test and ODI series.”

The squads:

Pakistan T20I squad: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood and Zaman Khan.

New Zealand T20I squad: Tom Latham (c), Chad Bowes, Mark Chapman, Dane Cleaver, Matt Henry, Ben Lister, Adam Milne, Cole McConchie, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Rachin Ravindra, Henry Shipley, Ish Sodhi, Blair Tickner and Will Young.

Schedule:

April 14 – 1st T20I, Lahore

April 15 – 2nd T20I, Lahore

April 17 – 3rd T20I, Lahore

April 20 – 4th T20I, Rawalpindi

April 24 – 5th T20I, Rawalpindi

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