Where: University of Otago Oval, Dunedin
When: Wednesday, January 17
Preparations are well underway for the 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup that will be held in June this year in the USA and the West Indies. We can expect several T20I-focused tours between now and then, including this Pakistani tour of New Zealand.
This tour is so T20I-focused that the specific white call format is the only type of cricket played between the two nations. With no ODI or Test matches on the tour, the whole concept is on improving team chemistry and trying out new combinations of players in the 20-over format.
The hosts have started this series in fine form and have won the first two games as the team put into bat first by Pakistan on both occasions. They scored 226 runs in the first match and 194 in the second, holding on to two win by 46 runs in Auckland and 21 runs in Hamilton, respectively.
Both matches have seen a New Zealand batsman named player of the match for blasting significant runs from few deliveries. Daryl Mitches went for 61 from 27 balls in the first T20I, only to see Finn Allen outscore him with 74 from 41 balls in the second.
New Zealand has changed personnel for the remaining three T20Is in this series. Bean Sears was named in the squad for the first two matches, but the experienced Lockie Ferguson is replacing him for the last three. This is a recovery protocol for Ferguson as he continues to rehab his way back to full fitness after an Achilles injury at the ODI World Cup.
Kane Williamson will also be missing from the third T20I and potentially the remainder of the series. This is to continue not to put too much load on his injured knee (and now a potentially injured hamstring), which was why captain Williamson was rested from the ODI/T20Is against Bangladesh.
Babar Azam is in fine form and has been the top Pakistani batter in the two opening games. He hit 57 runs from 35 balls in the series opener, then bettered that with 66 runs from 43 balls in the second match. If Pakistan is going to turn this series around, then Azam will be the player to lead them to success.
This is something of an experimental Pakistan side. The first match saw T20I debuts for Abbas Afridi and Usama Mir, while Shaheen Afridi captained the T20I side for the first time. Abbas Afridi was good out of the gate, taking a team hit 3/34 from his four overs in the first match.
It is hard to see why you wouldn’t take Azam to be best on the ground with the bat for Pakistan, and he is a very short 23/10 to be that man for the third match running. This has been a series where the bat has had the advantage, so if you like Pakistan to win the third T20I, then Azam at 9/1 to be Man of the Match looks like an intriguing bet.
Ferguson is 3/1 to be the Black Caps’ best bowler, the same price as Adam Milne and Ish Sodhi.