Yes, it was Pakistan's 12th straight loss to New Zealand in One-Day Internationals on Wednesday, but what should be more of a concern for the Pakistani think-tank is the fact that this was their ninth loss this year in 16 matches. What aggravates the situation further is that their seven wins are distributed in the matches against Zimbabwe, Hong Kong and Afghanistan.
Ahead of the all-important 2019 World Cup, this is the one-day series in which Pakistan are expected to get their combinations and rhythm in order before they venture to South Africa and England next year with a brief stay in the UAE - for a five-ODI series against Australia - in the middle.
The tale of Pakistan's loss against New Zealand in the first one-dayer was quite similar to what it is usually. A top-order collapse (this time due to a Trent Boult hat-trick) followed by futile attempts to stage a recovery that eventually translated into a defeat. Pakistan came close to having a shot at the target but the dearth of specialist batsmen available at the back-end of the innings saw them go 0-1 down in the series.
Before and after the Wednesday encounter, their captain Sarfraz Ahmed had spoken at length about the necessity of top order stepping up and providing a platform for the middle order. He reiterated, after their 47-run defeat, that he will have a chat with the top three.
Despite their victory, New Zealand had their share of troubles. On a pitch that was not conducive for pace bowling, especially under the sun, the visitors lost both openers in the first powerplay. The duo would have been back within a span of a few balls had Babar Azam not dropped a sitter at first slip. A brilliant recovery was undone in a Shadab Khan's over as the leggie removed three batsmen in four balls.
With the World Cup fast approaching, every one-dayer is an opportunity for Sarfraz to chalk out a success strategy. So, Friday presents another such opportunity to him to get his side out of the rut. For Kane Williamson, it will be about avenging the T20I series whitewash by sealing the series and eyeing a clean-sweep. But, ahead of the second one-dayer, Williamson will seek some fine-tuning in the batting department, so he forces his 50-over brilliance over Pakistan with more authority.
When: November 9, 2018, 3:00 PM Local time
Where: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
What to expect: A hot sun basking upon the lush green outfield with not a single cloud in sight.
Pakistan: Pakistan made two changes to their side from their last Asia Cup contest to bring back the duo of Mohammad Hafeez and Imad Wasim that missed out then. Despite their failure in the first outing of the series, they are expected to field the same line-up.
However, Fakhar Zaman's run in ODIs is a source of concern for the management and fans alike and with the Pakistan captain now openly talking about the necessity of the top order clicking, he will be under scanner. He had a niggle in his knee due to which he missed the first T20I against New Zealand. Sarfraz rejected the reports of him still carrying the injury.
Probable XI: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (c&wk), Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Junaid Khan
New Zealand: George Worker has been in the UAE for some time now playing against Pakistan 'A' for New Zealand 'A'. His run, however, has been underwhelming. He was caught behind while flirting with a delivery away from him early in the piece and that might tempt the Kiwis to tinker with their line-up to make a place for BJ Watling. But that depends on how they wish to utilize Tom Latham, arguably one of the best players of spin in modern-day cricket as Worker's absence from the line-up is likely to see him get promoted to either of the opening spots. Below is a possible scenario if Worker is dropped.
Probable XI: Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult
Did you know:
- New Zealand's ongoing win streak against Pakistan is the second longest. The longest is South Africa's which stretched over 14 matches from 1995 to 2000.
- Pakistan has won only one match - out of six - while chasing against New Zealand in the UAE since they have adopted the country as their home venue. Their record while chasing in the UAE, since early 2009, is abysmal as they have lost 20 out of 36 matches while batting second.
- ICC Champions Trophy 2017 bowler of the tournament, Hasan Ali averages 48.8 in his last five matches.