Kiwi determination up against Pakistani flamboyance
Bridgetown (Barbados): Perennial dark-horses New Zealand would be up against the unpredictable defending champions Pakistan in a must-win Super Eight Group E match on Saturday as the semifinal race heats up at the Twenty20 World Cup here.
Both the teams are coming off losses in their opening Super Eight matches and would be desperate to bring their campaign back on track. While New Zealand were handed their first defeat of the tournament by title favourites South Africa, Pakistan were upstaged by England.
Both the teams are grappling with identical problems. The batting line-ups of both the sides are brittle and rely too much on a few power-hitters, who cannot be expected to deliver in every game.
Here to defend their crown with a new-look team after some prominent names were banned for indiscipline, Pakistan have lived up to their reputation of being consistently inconsistent.
En route to the Super Eight, they beat minnows Bangladesh but lost to Australia after that. At the start of the tournament, they were stunned by Zimbabwe in a practice match.
Pakistan`s batting has not been too impressive barring Salman Butt and to some extent Umar Akmal.
Skipper Shahid Afridi has not quite lived upto his nickname of `Boom Boom Afridi` as yet, while the experienced Misbah-ul Haq has continued his barren run with the bat.
Their much-touted bowling attack has not made much of an impact either and comeback man Mohammad Asif, who was being relied upon as a strike pacer, had to be dropped owing to poor form.
Fielding was never Pakistan`s strength and coach Waqar Younis was quite vocal in his criticism of the effort last night. The title-holders dropped five catches and Younis found it hard to hide his frustration.
"It can be very frustrating, the way we dropped the catches and the way we fielded," said the pace legend.
New Zealand, meanwhile, have their own problems to deal with. Both their wins in the preliminary stage were close and their bowling has been a letdown in the death overs especially.
Pace spearhead Shane Bond is struggling and it is imperative that he strikes form soon to complement inspirational skipper Daniel Vettori`s leg-spin.
On the batting front, Brendon McCullum`s poor run is a worry considering how heavily the Kiwis rely on him for a good start.
But despite the shortcomings, New Zealand have always been known to produce more then what is expected of them. The dark horses have more often then not relied on sheer determination to steer through and at least the make the semifinals of big tournaments.