T20 series preview: New Zealand v Pakistan
As the build up to the World Twenty20 continues, New Zealand host Pakistan for a three-match series and all eyes will be on fast bowler Mohammad Amir as he looks to close the book on his comeback story.
Amir, as everyone knows by now, was banned in 2010 for match-fixing, and after a stint in jail and a five-year ban, has been playing for the past six months or so. His return has not been welcomed by everyone.
But he is back in the side, and New Zealand are happy to face him, and his fellow fast bowlers are pleased to have someone else to shoulder a bit of the burden. His form, and ability, has not been the issue.
Another naughty boy is Umar Akmal, who was supposed to be banned for the first match due to a dress code violation in Pakistan's domestic game, but they've delayed that, so he is eligible to play.
As for the Kiwis, they're being captained by Kane Williamson as Brendon McCullum continues his backwards steps towards retirement, and he will hang up his spikes after the Tests against Australia next month.
The Kiwis come into the series on the back of an easy two-nil win over Sri Lanka, with their batsmen finding some good form. The short boundaries at Eden Park in the first match will be very tempting for the likes of Martin Guptill.
Notably, the hosts have called up spinner Todd Astle in place of Ish Sodhi. Astle last played for the Kiwis in 2012, a lone Test, but has been in good form domestically, with a bit of added pace to his action, and will get his format debut.
Given their form, and home ground advantage, we expect the Kiwis to take the series, especially with Matt Henry bowling so well at home, and the top order batsmen with their eyes in.
For the hosts, opener Martin Guptill will be key after his cracking efforts against Sri Lanka, where he was the leading run getter and scored the fastest 50 for a Kiwi… until Colin Munro broke the record a few overs later.
Pakistan paceman Wahab Riaz will still feel the pressure to take wickets, as he will be looked to if Amir and Umar Gul don't come to the party. The World Cup last year showed he is comfortable in Antipodean conditions.
Last Five Head-To-Head Results
2014 Second T20: New Zealand won by 17 runs in Dubai
2014 First T20: Pakistan won by 7 wickets in Dubai
2012 WT20: Pakistan won by 13 runs in Pallekele
2010 Third T20: Pakistan won by 103 runs in Christchurch
2010 Second T20: New Zealand won by 39 runs in Hamilton
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Corey Anderson, Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (first game only), Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Ross Taylor
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Sohaib Maqsood, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Aamer Yamin, Sarfraz Ahmed, Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, Mohammad Rizwan, Saad Nasim, Mohammad Amir
First T20: 15 January in Auckland
Second T20: 17 January in Hamilton
Third T20: 22 January in Wellington
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