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A side that is known for its unpredictability takes on a consistent outfit as Pakistan faces New Zealand in the first T20I.

The visitors were dealt a body blow as their star batsman, Babar Azam was ruled out of the three-match series due to a thumb injury. Various members of the side had also tested positive for the coronavirus during their mandatory 14-day quarantine. 

Team News 

Mitchell Santner will lead the hosts in the absence of Kane Williamson in the first match. The middle-order looks solid with the presence of Glenn Phillips, Devon Conway and the big-hitting James Neesham. The bowling attack is a bit weak in the absence of the regular pacers who have been rested. 

Shadab Khan will captain Pakistan. They have a strong fast-bowling line-up in Wahab Riaz, Shaheen Afridi, and Haris Rauf. Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfaraz Ahmed lend a lot of experience in the batting department. 

Pitch and Conditions 

Eden Park in Auckland is a small ground and a high-scoring encounter can be expected. The weather is expected to stay clear. Once the batsmen get their eye in, they can go for the big shots. Bowlers can exploit the limited swing available in the initial stage of the innings. Anything above 180 would be considered a par score on this pitch. 

Probable Playing XI

New Zealand (NZ): Tim Seifert (wk), Martin Guptill, Devon Conway, Glenn Phillips, James Neesham, Mark Chapman, Mitchell Santner (C), Scott Kuggeleijn, Doug Bracewell, Ish Sodhi, Jacob Duffy/Todd Astle. 

Pakistan (PAK): Mohammad Hafeez, Haider Ali,  Khushdil Shah/Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Rizwan (wk)/ Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk),  Shadab Khan (C), Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Wahab Riaz, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf

Key Battles

Devon Conway vs Shadab Khan 

Devon Conway vs Shadab Khan   New Zealand
Devon Conway vs Shadab Khan 

Conway is an attacking left-hander who is considered a force in limited-overs cricket. He can adapt well to different situations in the game. He has a high strike rate of 160 and can play quickfire knocks with ease. 

Shadab is a clever leggie and can fox even the best batsmen in the air. He bowls with a loopy trajectory. He opts to deliver the ball from a wider angle that lands close to the stumps. He has wily variations and considers the legendary Shane Warne as his cricketing idol. 

Mohammad Hafeez vs James Neesham

Mohammad Hafeez vs James Neesham   New Zealand
Mohammad Hafeez vs James Neesham

Still active at the age of 40, Hafeez can trouble any bowler with his serene cover drives and fiery cut shots. He needs to improve his strike rate though. He can score runs frequently by rotating the strike at the start. 

Neesham is a promising all-rounder and a handy medium pacer. He can display nerves of steel even under tremendous pressure. He can churn out crucial performances when needed. His economy rate is a bit high at 9.14.

Prediction 

While the hosts have opted to rest their seniors and opted for a young side, Pakistan will be missing a few players but have enough depth in their line-up to pull off a victory. New Zealand was thoroughly dominant against West Indies in the recently concluded T20 series and will aim to continue their winning momentum.

Cricwizz predicts New Zealand to win the match.