Shoaib Malik to link up with Pakistan team in Abu Dhabi after his tennis-star wife gave birth to a son in Hyderabad on Tuesday
Pakistan v New Zealand: Sarfraz Ahmed says Pakistan will aim to set tone in first T20
Pakistan will seek to stretch their record number of Twenty20 series wins to 11 when they meet New Zealand in the first of three matches series starting at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
The nominal hosts will look to carry the momentum from their 3-0 whitewash of Australia in their most recent T20 series in the UAE, which also saw them beat the same opponents 1-0 in the two-Test series.
The No 1-ranked team in the game's shortest format will be further bolstered by the arrival of batsman Shoaib Malik who joins the team on Wednesday morning after his tennis-star wife Sania Mirza gave birth to a son in Hyderabad on Tuesday.
“Congratulations to Shoaib and his family. He will be here tomorrow morning and will be available for the match,” said Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed at the pre-match news conference.
“It is an important series after getting the Australians out of the way. Our focus is now on New Zealand and they are also a tough side and performed well in the T20 format.
“For sure, we want our objective is to take the momentum forward. The first game in a series is always important. We will try to set the tone straightaway so that we can have a good series ahead.”
Pakistan’s success in the shortest format dates back to September 2016, and all under Sarfraz’s leadership.
Sarfraz said he was not taking New Zealand lightly, pointing out the Black Caps' potential match-winners such as the big-hitting Kane Williamson and Colin Munro and quick bowlers Adam Milne, Lockie Ferguson and Tim Southee.
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New Zealand are returning to international cricket after seven months and the T20 format after nine months.
“There is a lot of cricket being played in different competitions and also the guys have had some cricket but it’s an unusually long time between internationals,” said New Zealand captain Williamson.
“I guess it makes the guys very excited to get back involved and a great country to come to play cricket against Pakistan who are one of the strongest teams in the world in the T20 format at the moment.
“Coming over here, they are extremely strong in these conditions. Their rankings suggests that as well. They have had a lot of success in the format in recent times.
“We know it’s a tough challenge and one that we are looking forward to. Obviously we want to win any game that we turn out for and this being the first it’s going to be a big game and exciting one.”
New Zealand are without the inured Martin Guptill, a veteran of 47 Tests, 151 one-day internationals and 75 T20Is, but Williamson said his absence was opened up opportunities for others at the top of the order.
“It’s a shame we don’t have Martin for this series,” he said. “He’s is a world-class player for us and a big performer but it also provides the opportunities for some other guys.”
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All-rounder Corey Anderson, who returns from injury, left-handed opening batsman Glenn Phillips and spinner Ajaz Patel have been drafted to the squad from New Zealand's A team that travelled ahead to play Pakistan A in a series in the UAE.
“Corey and Glenn have both had international experience before and Ajaz is new to the environment but an experience cricketer. So it’s great that he gets an opportunity in the series,” Williamson said.
“It’s the nature of it and you always deal with those little bits and pieces that crop up, not ideal perhaps, but good opportunities for the guys coming in to the team.”