PALLEKELE – Pakistan captain M Hafeez has played down the hype around his spin quartet ahead of his side’s opening match of the World T20 against New Zealand at Pallekele Stadium Today.
Hafeez said his team management had assessed the condition of the pitch and will avoid an over reliance on spin. “I am satisfied with the preparation of the team and we are ready for the big challenge. We know conditions here suit seamers so we are not going to rely on our spinners alone. We also have good seamers led by Gul so we will have a balanced combination for a winning start,” Hafeez said. After blowing hot and cold in the warm-up matches where they beat arch-rivals India but lost to England, Pakistan captain Hafeez said his team was ready for the serious business. “We tried out various combinations in the warm-up matches and now we are ready for the big event. I am satisfied with the preparation of the team and we are ready for the big challenge,” he added.
Meanwhile, skipper Ross Taylor hoped his batsmen counter the threat posed by Pakistan’ potent bowling attack in the group D cracker. New Zealand thumped Bangladesh by 59 runs in their opening match on Friday on the back of a Twenty20 record score of 123 by Brendon McCullum in a match they faced three left-arm spinners as well.
But Pakistan present a far greater challenge as they have the top three wicket takers in all Twenty20 cricket with Saeed Ajmal (60 wickets), Umar Gul (59) and Shahid Afridi (59). To add to Ajmal and Afridi they also have skipper Hafeez and rookie left-armer Raza Hasan, meaning New Zealand may well have to play 16 overs of spin. But Taylor said the momentum gained from the victory over Bangladesh could be invaluable.
“Hafeez and Ajmal have got very good records in the last 12-18 months. We have had an insight into the wicket and the confidence from the way we played on Friday, we’ll hopefully take that also,” said the New Zealand skipper. “We have prepared really well and I am sure we’ll do the same against Pakistan.” New Zealand have happy memories of the Pallekele stadium where they beat Pakistan by a 110-run margin in the 50-over World Cup last year, with Taylor notching a career best 131 not out. “I am not sure (whether this venue suits NZ more). It didn’t spin as much as we thought it might. When you play a second time on it, it could probably spin a little bit more. We’ll have to wait and see,” said Taylor. “Pakistan are a lot more experienced than Bangladesh. They’ve played very well in the last 12-18 months. They’ve got world-class players but hopefully we can get the better of them come the next match.”
Weather: Rain may hamper the match according to the forecast.
Pakistan (From): Mohammad Hafeez(c), Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal(w), Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Umar Gul Mohammad Sami, Sohail Tanvir, Saeed Ajmal, Asad Shafiq, Yasir Arafat, Abdul Razzaq, Raza Hasan
New Zealand (From): Martin Guptill, James Franklin, Brendon McCullum(w), Ross Taylor(c), Rob Nicol, Kane Williamson, Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Ronnie Hira, Adam Milne, Doug Bracewell, BJ Watling