Pakistan are considered a good T20 side as record shows — they were runners-up in 2007, winners in 2009 and semi-finalists in 2010.
Fast bowling used to be the hall mark of Pakistan and the country is known for producing pacers from nowhere. But the unavailability of Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and the retirement of Shoaib Akhtar left a great gap in the fast bowling department.
Sohail Tanvir and Umar Gul are doing their job but Pakistan has started depending heavily on spinners to win matches.
Saeed Ajmal has improved tremendously in recent years and after Shahid Afridi’s removal as captain he got more and more chances to bowl and has emerged as the match-winner for Pakistan.
The wily off-spinner from Faisalabad will be key to restrict New Zealand top order.
His four-over spell could be a decisive factor in the outcome of the match in Pallekele.
Branden McCullum, the top-ranked T20 batsman, is in the form of his life as he won the one-off game against India and scored the first century of the tournament to help Kiwis outplay Bangladesh on Friday.
Pakistan have to stop the wicketkeeper-batsman in his tracks if they harbour any hopes to win the match and progress in the tournament.
Ross Taylor is another dangerous player who tore Pakistan bowling apart in the 2011 World Cup. Coupled with good fielding New Zealand will be a hard nut to crack for the unpredictable Pakistanis.
If you look at Pakistan batting line-up, it is filled with stroke players. Imran Nazir and Umar Akmal can be match-winners on their day but they need to perform with some sort of consistency.
Umar hasn’t got a big innings under his belt prior to the mega event. He failed against Australia in the UAE and was unable to find form in two warm-up matches in Sri Lanka.
He has been provided with ample chances and time may be running out for him. He needs to set things right sooner than later. The team management and coaches are not very happy with his way of applying himself. He is not learning from his mistakes.
Nasir Jamshed is a good find for Pakistan and the team will be expecting some big innings from the youngster.
Kamran Akmal has announced his comeback with a few big innings and his knock of 92 against India in the warm-up match was a good sign for Pakistan. He can play a key role against New Zealand if he is used wisely — up the order.
He looks a much improved batsman now.
Let us hope for a good contest on Sunday.
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