Crescent Kashmir

Spin to play crucial role in Pakistan’s ODI series decider against New Zealand

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KARACHI: If all goes by the trend, spin will again play a key role when Pakistan take on New Zealand in the deciding fixture of their three-match One-day International series — evenly poised at 1-1 — here at the National Stadium on Friday.

The venue’s pitches are commonly known to be flat tracks which allow batters to dominate, but the ball has turned and bounced in the first two matches.

In the opening ODI, Pakistan chased down the 256-run target with ease as the turn was fairly negotiable, but in the second game, the hosts were outdone by New Zealand’s four-pronged spin attack to give the visitors a 79-run win.

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam, who was the team’s top-scorer with 79 and Mohammad Rizwan tried to take the game deep but couldn’t make much of their time on the crease before wickets fell quickly.

Earlier, left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz had triggered a New Zealand collapse with four wickets in his last four overs after captain Kane Williamson and opener Devon Conway had put up a 181-run partnership.

“The pitch is different from how it is typically in Karachi, the way the ball is turning and bouncing I think is the reason both teams couldn’t manage to play the full overs,” Nawaz said in the post-match press conference.

“Babar tried to take the game deep but unfortunately we failed to execute our plans.”

The context in terms of the conditions makes the decider a fixture to look forward to for the fans in Karachi, who are expected to turn out in numbers on what will be the cold weekend eve with the city’s temperature expected to drop into single figures.

The chilly weather would also mean low chances of dew and the team bowling second — like New Zealand did in the previous match — will have an advantage with spinners getting more grip.

New Zealand did start the series with a loss, but read the pitch well enough to opt to bat first on Wednesday before putting Pakistan in a fix as the hosts struggled to score runs.

The toss will play a crucial role again and Pakistan, who are known to be more comfortable chasing, may choose to do otherwise if they coin ends up landing in their favour.

“Toss does play a crucial role on these wickets as there is more turn and bounce as in the second innings,” said Nawaz. “The dew makes it difficult for the spinners to execute their plans and since there was none tonight it was easier for the New Zealand spinners to maintain good line and length.”

New Zealand added Ish Sodhi in place of Henry Shipley to bolster their spin resources, a strategy that proved fruitful for the BlackCaps.

Babar, however, has the services of only two specialist spinners in Usama Mir and Mohammad Nawaz at his disposal. Therefore, in the final ODI, he would look to use Haris Sohail’s left-arm spin to ensure he has more options to attack.

New Zealand spinner Mitchell Santner, who conceded just 34 runs in his 10 overs in the second match, said the side would not assume the pitch will play in a similar way in the decider.

“The final game will be on another wicket, it could be similar it could be different and we know Pakistan are a quality side so it’s nice to go into the decider,” said the left-armer.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2023

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