New Zealand beat Pakistan in the first ODI of the three-match series by 70 runs in Wellington on Monday.
After winning the toss, Pakistan captain Azhar Ali invited the hosts to bat first on a bouncy pitch. The Kiwis after an initial stutter, where they were 99-6 in the 22nd over, were able to pile up 280-8 in the 50 overs.
In their chase, Pakistan never got going and were bowled out at the end of the 46th over.
Overcast conditions and rain forecast will welcome both the teams in Napier at the McLean Park on Thursday. Here are five things Pakistan needs to do to in order to beat the Kiwis and draw the three-match series level at 1-1.
1. Pakistan must stick to Irfan-Amir bowling attack like glue
Left-arm bowlers Muhammad Amir and Muhammad Irfan showed that they are the future of the Pakistani bowling attack with the new ball. The potential they displayed to work with the new Kookabura was lethal, to say the least.
Both pacers looked fiery in their opening spells and they, along with right-arm medium pacer Anwar Ali, reduced the hosts to 99 for 6 in the 23rd over.
The returning 23-year-old looked a lot more settled in the 50-over format compared to a mediocre performance in the T20s format where he bagged only one wicket in three matches.
Seven-feet tall Irfan also looked fresher and hungrier for wickets after coming back from a lengthy layoff. Pakistan must stick with this opening pair for the second ODI to make sure the Kiwis are not allowed score freely during batting powerplays.
2. Azhar Ali needs to be more aggressive
Another series, another ODI, another loss; Azhar Ali’s captaincy stint is clearly not working out.
The 29-year-old’s approach was heavily scrutinised after the Kiwis were given a freehand to stage a comeback even after losing their most seasoned batsmen.
With the services of four pacers and one all-rounder at his disposal, Azhar needs to show more aggression in his captaincy. With New Zealand six down in the first match, he should have reverted to his strike bowlers to pull the kill-switch over the Kiwis but he allowed them to settle and fire at the end. If the same opportunity arrives at McLean Park, he should be able to rectify his mistake from the first ODI.
3. Stick with Babar Azam at number four
Eight ODIs, an average of 41.71 and four half-centuries, all these statistics prove Babar Azam mettle as a genuine contender for a middle-order batsman for Pakistan.
Out of the eight outings, he has played five times at the number four spot and scored three half-tons in that position. The data might be thin at this point but it surely hints towards his potential at the aforementioned position.
After Misbahul Haq’s departure and Younus Khan’s surprise exit from the ODIs, Babar seems to be the perfect fit for the wavering Pakistani middle order.
He scored 62 off 76 balls in the first ODI when the whole team seemed to have forgotten the art of willow-wielding. However, he still needs to learn to convert those starts into a match-winning innings.
4. Give Sohaib Maqsood a break to reflect
Right-hand batsman Sohaib Maqsood is trying his best to emulate Nasir Jamshed both in bowling and with his fielding but the team management should consider giving him a break.
The lad from Multan, who was picked to carry forward the legacy of legendary Inzamamul Haq, has not been able to deliver for quite some time now.
Maqsood is averaging 21.3 in his last ten 50-over outings, with only one score of 50 against West Indies in the losing cause during the 2015 World Cup.
It’s not only the numbers that are a cause of concern; Maqsood has has shown a tendency to lose his wicket by playing reckless shots.
With a player like Muhammad Rizwan, who can bat and field better than Sohaib on any given day, available there is no reason why Maqsood shouldn’t be dropped for the second ODI.
5. To not to let New Zealand off the hook
Pakistan’s top order seemed to have lost their footing when a 280-run total was placed in front of them.
Azhar tried to slog Grant Elliot out of the ground and was caught at mid-on. Ahmed Shehzad went for a drive and forgot that Kane Williamson was rightly placed at mid-off to take a catch. Muhammad Hafeez went ballistic and was caught at long-on at a time when the team needed someone to play till the last over. Sohaib forgot that ducking a short delivery is allowed in the ODIs and pulled one into the hands of long leg.
The team needs to prepare ”Plan A’ for both situations if they come on to bat or bowl in the second ODI. In the first ODI, the plan seemed to be working till the Kiwis were 99-6 but then a little tampering led to a Pakistani defeat. A partnership between Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner was enough to lay Pakistan dead in the battlefield. This is where the coach and captain together with the team need to work on a ‘Plan B’.
Pakistan gave too many chances to New Zealand to comeback into the game. You can’t afford that at the international level. And most importantly, Pakistan needs to plan ahead and be proactive rather than reactive in the second ODI if they want to salvage a chance of levelling the series.