Cricket: Opponent heaps praise on NZ

By David Leggat -
Observant: Pakistan opener Ahmed Shehzad had a lot of positive things to say about the New Zealand cricket team yesterday. File Photo / AP.
Observant: Pakistan opener Ahmed Shehzad had a lot of positive things to say about the New Zealand cricket team yesterday. File Photo / AP.

New Zealand are good at keeping grounded, and insist they maintain an even keel through good and bad times.

If they want to know how well they're playing now, they could do worse than listen to Pakistan opener Ahmed Shehzad, who showered them with praise yesterday on the eve of the first T20 at Eden Park tonight.

They [Black Caps] are playing wonderful cricket at the moment.
Ahmed Shehzad

Then again, they'll probably avoid Shehzad's comments as hearing too much of a good thing would probably run against the grain, given their Kipling-like philosophy about treating twin imposters - in his case triumph and disaster, in theirs good and bad days - the same.

"They are playing wonderful cricket at the moment," Shehzad said.

"We all know the style they are playing with is awesome to see."

Shehzad's record against New Zealand is good. He's averaging 38.58 with two centuries in 13 ODIs; and has scored 116 runs from 91 balls in four T20s, a strike rate of 127.47.

New Zealand hold no terrors for the 24-year-old, although he pointed out that's just what New Zealand are doing right now, playing with no fear.

"I think [Brendon] McCullum's done a good job. Now they have a good bunch which is doing their job together. If any side is playing good cricket we have to appreciate that, and try to match them. It raises your standards as well."

And that's the point at which Shehzad turned his attention to Pakistan.

They must lift themselves and match New Zealand over the six limited-overs internationals.

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"You have to execute your plans and flourish. Cricket is moving fast, way too fast. We have a wonderful bunch. This is the best possible unit we have at the moment.

"It's a good combination of seniors and juniors and we're all pumped up and ready to give some entertainment."

Shehzad's talk of the pace of the game is bang on. T20 is the one form where it's tough to overcome a poor start. There isn't the time or overs.

New Zealand had cracking starts, with both bat and ball, in the two wins over Sri Lanka. Their confidence is high.

Pakistan will test New Zealand in ways Sri Lanka couldn't. They will have more pace and batsmen who, while erratic, can seriously damage bowling figures.

They've also received a boost with the news the gifted Umar Akmal has been released to play the game.

He faces a one-game ban over a clothing violation in the domestic first-class final but has appealed.

Akmal can bat, but gets out in daft ways. The good Akmal will be an asset, as will Mohammad Amir, who is making cricket's most talked-about comeback of recent years.

New Zealand are on a roll, Pakistan have lost five of their last six games - the exception a T20 tie with England on November 30. They have since had a camp which all regard as a success.

But camps aren't match play. Pakistan might be rusty tonight; equally they rate among international cricket's more dangerous outfits.

The winner tonight keeps alive chances of a 3-0 series sweep, and rising to No1 in the T20 game. Call that a readymade incentive.


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