New Zealand look to extend winning run against Pakistan
Wellington: Fresh from their recent triumph over the West Indies, New Zealand will aim to continue the momentum when they host Pakistan in the first of a five-match One-Day International (ODI) series at the Basin Reserve here on Saturday.
Pakistan, on the other hand, arrive in New Zealand for the limited-overs series -- the five ODIs will be followed by three Twenty20 Internationals -- after whitewashing Sri Lanka 5-0 in an ODI series in the United Arab Emirates.
Going into the opening match, despite missing the services of all-rounder Doug Bracewell, who was ruled out of the first two matches, the hosts will bank on skipper Kane Williamson, veteran Martin Guptill and Colin Munro, who became the only player to score three T20I centuries with a ton against the West Indies.
All of Tom Latham, the wicketkeeper-batsman, Todd Astle and Henry Nicholls are set to return to the side, having not played in the T20Is against the West Indies.
Latham finished as New Zealand's third-highest run scorer in ODIs in 2017, behind Williamson and Ross Taylor.
Pakistan could also be troubled by the Kiwi pace attack, led by Tim Southee and Trent Boult, as they attempt to make the most of home conditions. The likes of Matt Henry, Mitchell Santer, and Lockie Ferguson should also prove a handful.
Meanwhile, Pakistan have the arsenal to match the hosts shot-for-shot, especially given the return of Mohammed Amir, who would pair-up with Hasan Ali, the top-ranked ODI bowler.
Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and Babar Azam -- their top run-scorer in ODIs in 2017 -- form the batting core, with Fakhar Zaman, the opening batsman, capable of giving the visitors a brisk start, along the lines of that match-defining century in the Champions Trophy 2017 final.
Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed will also lead a fairly young bunch on the tour, including Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan, the spinners, and Imam-ul-Haq, the 22-year-old opening batsman and nephew of former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq.
The last time these two sides competed against each other was in January 2016, when Pakistan visited New Zealand for a limited-overs series.
On that occasion, New Zealand won the three-match ODI series 2-0. That series had also marked the return of Amir to international cricket, following his five-year ban.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (Captain), Todd Astle, George Worker, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (WK), Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (Captain & WK), Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Aamer Yamin, Rumman Raees.