New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor hoped his batsmen counter Pakistan’s spin threat in the group ‘D’ match at Pallekele stadium on Sunday.
New Zealand thumped Bangladesh by 59 runs in its opening match on Friday on the back of a Twenty20 record score of 123 by Brendon McCullum in a match it faced three left-arm spinners as well.
But Pakistan poses a far greater threat as it has the top three wicket-takers in all Twenty20 cricket with Saeed Ajmal (60 wickets), Umar Gul (59) and Shahid Afridi (59).
To add to Ajmal and Afridi it also has skipper Mohammad Hafeez and rookie left-armer Raza Hasan, meaning New Zealand may well have to play 16 overs of spin.
But Taylor said the momentum gained from the victory over Bangladesh could be invaluable.
New Zealand has happy memories of the Pallekele stadium where it beat Pakistan by a 110-run margin in the 50-over World Cup last year, with Taylor notching up a career-best 131 not out.
After blowing hot and cold in the warm-up matches where it beat India but lost to England, Pakistan captain Hafeez said his team was ready for the serious business.
“We tried out various combinations in the warm-up matches and now we are ready for the big event,” said Hafeez. “I am satisfied with the preparation of the team and we are ready for the big challenge.”
Hafeez played down the hype around his spin quartet.
“We know conditions here suit seamers so we are not going to rely on our spinners alone,” said Hafeez. “We also have good seamers led by Gul so we will have a balanced combination for a winning start.”
The top two teams from each of the four groups will qualify for the Super Eight rounds.
Defending champion England and India have already qualified for the next round from group ‘A’. Host Sri Lanka and South Africa have also progressed from group ‘C’.
The teams (Probable):
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Rob Nicol, Brendon McCullum (wk), Ross Taylor (captain), Kane Williamson, James Franklin, Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee and Kyle Mills.
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal (wk), Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal.
Umpires: Bruce Oxenford and Marais Erasmus. Third umpire: Nigel Llong.
Keywords: World Cup T20 2012