Covers sport across NZME's print, digital and radio brands.

Cricket: Pakistan bowlers to give Black Caps a stern test

Grant Elliott is bowled against Pakistan. Photo / www.photosport.nz
Grant Elliott is bowled against Pakistan. Photo / www.photosport.nz

The capabilities of New Zealand's batsmen will be subject to a stern test against the skill and variety of Pakistan's bowlers over their next two Twenty20 matches.

Few weaknesses, as illustrated in New Zealand's opening 16-run loss at Eden Park, make the visitors ideal opponents ahead of March's World T20 tournament in India. The result provided a contrast to the ease with which the Black Caps dispatched Sri Lanka.

Pace bowlers Mohammad Amir, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz and spinners Shahid Afridi and Imad Wasim form a T20 attack which is arguably the best in the world.

Each took one wicket or more and bowled at least 10 dot balls on Friday. Significantly, they challenged Kane Williamson's hypnotic spell over most bowlers in the last couple of years.

Williamson made his highest T20 score of 70 off 60 balls, but that came with an uncharacteristic wagon wheel.

Just three singles were hit between extra cover and mid-on. The Pakistanis bowled a length which restricted his ability to drive straight.

Williamson clipped two through mid-wicket from his first delivery. The next time he advanced to better than a run-a-ball was with the boundary to bring up his 50. At the end of the sixth over, he had 10 from 20 balls.

"It shows his composure and ability to soak it up as a player," pace bowler Adam Milne said. "He ran out Guppy (Martin Guptill), but turned it around. He soaked up a few dot balls but found the boundary towards the end to almost get us across the line."

Sometimes it helps to absorb a match to adapt to the opposition's strategy over a series, a luxury New Zealand won't be afforded at the global tournament.

Amir, in his return to internationals after a five-year ban for taking bribes, was unlucky not to get more wickets in his one for 31 after enduring a couple of dropped catches. He remains lively despite his hiatus.

Gul has always threatened New Zealand, taking 15 wickets at a strike rate of 12 and average of 15.13 in nine T20s. His best impact came with 5-6 at The Oval in 2009 but the 31-year-old, a master of reverse swing and yorkers, looked sharp returning from a recurring knee injury.

Riaz delivered one of the most aggressive and compelling spells at the World Cup against Shane Watson. Commentator and former Australian player Damien Fleming summed up the approach by saying one delivery was "a perfume ball, get a smell of that one". Riaz still looks hungry.

Add the economy of Imad Wasim. The left-arm orthodox spinner successfully entered in the second over to stem the run flow and finish with 1-18. In six T20s against Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and New Zealand, he has a strike rate of 15 and concedes 4.77 an over.

Captain Shahid Afridi completes the attack. His leg spin keeps bamboozling oppositions, particularly a top spinner which has pinned countless lbw victims. His T20 bowling record, where he averages 23.44, strikes every 21 balls and concedes 6.56 an over, has been an asset in all formats for almost 20 years.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 03 Dec 2016 11:36:26 Processing Time: 758ms