New Zealand vs Pakistan: White Ferns look to end home World Cup on a high

Nida Dar (L) Amelia Kerr (R) will be key for their respective sides © Getty Images

The 26th match of the ongoing World Cup between the hosts New Zealand and Pakistan will most likely be their last. While Pakistan are already out of the semi-final race, only a miracle can take the White Ferns to the semis. The two sides will face off each other at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Saturday (March 26).

What’s at stake

Although the game looks like a dead rubber and might have no consequence on the tournament, the two teams will be battling to salvage their pride. And finish on a high. 

New Zealand had the best possible preparation leading into the tournament. They routed India 4-1 at home in a five-match ODI series. Most of their senior players did exceedingly well and even their youngsters stepped up with a lot of phenomenal performances.

The White Ferns were able to give enough game time to all their players and that enabled them to test their bench strengths as well.

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But where did it go wrong for the hosts?

Playing a tournament at home is deemed as an advantage. But is that always the case? When you are playing in your home conditions, the familiarity with the same acts as a huge advantage for sure. 

It makes your life as the host nation easier but what we tend to forget is that it can be a double-edged sword at times too. While the home advantage factor is a much talked about thing, the pressure of playing at home isn’t discussed at length most often. 

And for the Sophie Devine side, it turned out to be even bigger because of the historical context. The fact that the White Ferns had emerged victorious the last time they played a home World Cup added to the truckloads pressure the White Ferns were already living under and they couldn’t get it right.

Peaking early

New Zealand drubbed India in their home series and it was looking as if they were all set for the biggest rumble. But it didn’t turn out the same way. They were just too strong in the series and some of their players had already delivered their best before the commencement of the ongoing World Cup. Amelia Kerr’s performances with both the bat and ball emerged as the biggest talking point after the series against India. 

But she hasn’t been able to deliver in the same manner in the World Cup. She has only scored one fifty in the six games that she has played thus far. Her inability to churn out big runs the way she did in the India series has hurt the side pretty badly. Similarly, Suzie Bates had looked in good touch against India. Having scored a match-winning ton, she had gotten off to the best possible start to the series but lost her momentum in the World Cup. She only has one fifty-plus score in the ongoing tournament. Also, former skipper Amy Satterthwaite, who had struck two fifties in the India series and is one of the most experienced campaigners in the team, couldn’t make a mark in the ongoing event either.

For Pakistan, the World Cup was always going to be an event to impress everyone and to a certain extent, they have. But when you are not that good a side and are competing against the best in the world for an extended period of time then failures are bound to happen.

ALSO READ: Want to capitalise on every opportunity that comes my way in the World Cup: Nida Dar

Too big a stage for the green brigade

They started their opening fixture against India brilliantly. But then lost the plot as the game progressed and were eventually beaten comprehensively.

While the loss against India must have hurt them the defeats that the green brigade would reflect with a grimace on their face are the ones against South Africa and Bangladesh.

Their game against South Africa was also winnable but they couldn’t seize the defining moments in the match and fell agonizingly short by six runs. Even against Bangladesh, they were in the game right till the end but just couldn’t cross the line.

After their disappointing loss against Bangladesh, it was looking very gloomy for the Bismah Maroof side but they turned it around in grand fashion and defeated the West Indies convincingly. But then the last outing against England gave them a glimpse of what can potentially happen if they run into big oppositions.

ALSO READ: Moments you want to play are ones where you bowl the last over or hit the winning runs: Amelia Kerr

What they said:

“It’s made some really good improvement. Got through training today, which was, I guess a big test for me. It’s something I’ve experienced before sort of the back stiffness and soreness. So you look we’ll see how the next 24 hours go but feeling good.”

–  Sophie Devine on her back injury.

“Not really, I think the pressure will definitely be on New Zealand, we just want to enjoy the game and put up a good show on that day.”

– Bismah Maroof on the pressure of playing against the hosts in tomorrow’s game and that too in front of a full crowd.

Players to watch out for:

Amelia Kerr: The 21-year old batting allrounder has not done justice to her potential with the bat in the tournament thus far. She has got several starts in the tournament but hasn’t converted them into a big one. Although her batting numbers against Pakistan aren’t great, they might change for the better tomorrow.

While she hasn’t fired with the bat much, her bowling has been good. She has picked up eight wickets in the tournament and with the way the Pakistan batters tumbled in the last game she’ll fancy her chances against them tomorrow.

Nida Dar: Nida Dar is one of the few players for Pakistan who have done well in the tournament. Her bowling effort against the West Indies was top-class. While she failed to impress with both the bat and ball in the last game, she’ll be motivated to bring out the best in her in Saturday’s clash.

Numbers:

Head to head: Played 13 matches, New Zealand 12 – 1 Pakistan

  • Suzie Bates has scored the most runs for New Zealand against Pakistan in ODIs. She has scored 542 runs in ten matches at an average of 67.75.

Predicted XI:

New Zealand: Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine (c), Amelia Kerr, Amy Satterthwaite, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Katey Martin (wk), Frances Mackay, Hannah Rowe, Rosemary Mair, Jess Kerr

Pakistan: Muneeba Ali, Sidra Ameen, Bismah Maroof (c), Omaima Sohail, Nida Dar, Aliya Riaz, Fatima Sana, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Diana Baig, Nashra Sandhu, Anam Amin