The highly-anticipated three-match T20 series between Pakistan and New Zealand, which begins on Friday, December 19, will see two brilliant T20I sides trying to outlast the other.
Though visitors Pakistan would be without their in-form captain Babar Azam, who is ruled out of the entire series with a fractured thumb, the Men in Green still boast of a powerful unit, especially in this format. Hosts New Zealand, on the other hand, come into this series following a successful T20I outing against West Indies with their skipper, Kane Williamson and pacer Trent Boult spitting fire.
With both the teams brimming with individual talents, here’s a look at a few players who we think can make a difference in the T20I series.
With the absence of regular opener Babar Azam, a door could open for Haider Ali to play the new ball. Ali made his debut against England in the third T20I and scored an impressive half-century. The Peshawar Zalmi player, who recently had an impressive outing in the PSL, has had everyone chanting his name after his blistering knocks and easy-flowing cricket. Ali also caught eye-balls after his maiden Quaid-e-Azam tournament and became a revelation thereafter. The 20-year old likes the ball coming on to the bat and will enjoy the Kiwi conditions. With the advantage of the field restrictions, Haider will look to give his side the head-start they need.
Glenn Phillips took 46 deliveries to score his first T20I hundred, the quickest by a New Zealander in this format. He was also involved in a 184-run partnership with Devon Conway which is the highest for his nation. Phillips also came in to bat after the powerplay and scored 108 runs - the most by any player from the top teams to come in and bat after the restrictions. All this on a single day against the recently concluded series against the Caribbean Islands. The South African born batsman has the ability to hit 360 degrees, which makes him an even more dangerous batsman. He grabbed his opportunity with both hands after some frontline players were rested. Having got an extended run in this format, the 24-year old will want to be a regular name in this outfit.
Glenn Phillips’ partner in crime Devon Conway is another South African born cricketer who made his debut later this year. An attacking left-handed batsman who bats in the top order hit a crucial 29-ball 41 as the Black Caps chased down the Windies target of 176 in 16 overs. He went on to score an unbeaten 65 in the second match to give the home side the series. Devon’s form in all three formats since the last two seasons made him impossible to ignore, said selector Gavin Larsen. The Johannesburg native was the top scorer in the Shield and the Super Smash - New Zealand’s domestic competition. In the following year, he topped the charts in all the three competitions. Conway can also keep wickets which could help the balance of the squad.
Another young but popular star goes by the name of Shaheen Shah Afridi. The pacer is having a dream 2020 season and will hope to extend the same momentum in New Zealand. The left-arm fast bowler became the youngest overseas player to play county cricket and wreaked havoc in England. He picked up 4 wickets in 4 balls including a hat-trick and was on fire throughout the tournament. Afridi duplicated his form in the Pakistan Super League taking most wickets and finishing as runner-up. The youngster didn’t take part in the T20I series against Zimbabwe but was at his lethal best in the 50-over format. With adequate rest and the ability to swing the ball, Shaheen would be leading the Pakistan bowling attack and would be licking his lips to make the ball talk.
Feature Image Courtesy: AFP/ Aamir Qureshi