Pak batsmen geared up against NZ

Pallekele: Daniel Vettori`s erratic New Zealanders will have their task cut out when they take on Pakistan in a group A encounter of the cricket World Cup, here on Tuesday.

The action now shifts from Kandy after four games at R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo where three games will be played.

Pakistan are on top of group A having maintained an unbeaten run. The champions of 1992 edition have almost secured a berth in the last eight stage of the competition.

However, Shahid Afridi`s side will be looking to brush up a few areas before the knockout stage commences later this month.

Pakistan batsmen would like to put up a better show against New Zealand after their poor performance against Canada where they were shot out for a paltry 184. Facing an ordinary Canada attack, the much vaunted Pakistan batting line-up failed to deliver as none of their batsmen were able to score a half century.

In fact such inept was Pakistan`s batting that they failed to utilise more than one over of the batting Powerplay.

"We have struggled a bit with the batting Powerplay and we need to utilize that properly in the remaining games," vice-captain Misbah-ul-Haq told the reporters here today.

It was captain Shahid Afridi whose second five-wicket haul in the tournament helped Pakistan skittle out Canada for 138. Afridi, who is now the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 14 scalps will be keen to continue his good run. But the skipper would also like to make a significant contribution with the bat too.

New Zealand on the otherhand have had some contrasting performances in their three matches. While they thrashed both Zimbabwe and Kenya winning both matches by an identical 10- wicket margin, they were humbled by Australia in their second match which the defending champions won with 16 overs to spare.

Their form in ODIs however, in recent times has been patchy having suffered humiliating series defeats to India and Bangladesh in recent months.

The Kiwis` last series before the World Cup was against Pakistan and although they lost that series 2-3, captain Daniel Vettori was confident his side will do well against Afridi and Co. as they possess a fair idea what to expect from their opponents tomorrow.

"Having played Pakistan in recent months is certainly an advantage," Vettori said.

The conditions in Kandy will also be to their liking as the wicket is expected to be faster than the ones in Colombo and Hambantota. "The surface looks faster than what we have been seeing in Sri Lanka before this game and we are looking forward for the game," Vettori added.

The problem with the New Zealand side has been their fragile middle-order where save Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor, there isn`t much depth. James Franklin has now developed into a good one day batsman but his technique against good fast bowlers like Umar Gul, Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul razzaq is still questionable.

Also in the bowling department, it is skipper Vettori whose performance becomes a key factor. It will also depend on how much pressure the new-ball duo of Tim Southee and Kyle Mills can put on the opposition.


New Zealand (from): Daniel Vettori, Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson and Luke Woodcock.

Pakistan (from): Shahid Afridi (Captain), Misbah-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Ahmed Shehzad, Asad Shafiq, Junaid Khan, Kamran Akmal (Wicketkeeper), Mohammad Hafeez, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz and Younis Khan.

Umpires: Daryl Harper (Aus) and Nigel Llong (Eng)

Third Umpire: Ian Gould (NZ)

Match Referee: Chris Broad (Eng).