The way the first two matches of this series have panned out, there is not much to pick between Pakistan and New Zealand. That's good news from a New Zealand perspective as they are competing very well in foreign conditions, but not so good for Pakistan - their batting, invincible in Tests a month ago, is now back in the familiar zone of unpredictability.
Twice in two matches, Pakistan lost the top order for cheap scores. More worrying was the fact that they were not able to accommodate Umar Akmal in the side. But Misbah-ul-Haq is out of the series* due to a hamstring injury which opens the door for Akmal. What Pakistan can count as a positive is the practice their batsmen are getting by facing quality pacers even on dead pitches.
That pace attack has been New Zealand's strength and a revelation. They peppered the Pakistan with short-pitched bowling and with considerable success, an excellent sign as they know this bowling attack is their bench strength in the World Cup once Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Kyle Mills (unfit at the moment) are available.
The third match of an ODI series standing at 1-1 is a bit like the period between 20 and 35 overs in an ODI; If you do well, you move ahead but don't win, and if you make mistakes, there is always a chance to come back. Pakistan, however, would want to find a way to prevent New Zealand's hat-trick of wins in Sharjah this tour.
(most recent first, completed matches only)
New Zealand WLLLW
A recent convert to left-arm spin bowling, Haris Sohail hasn't done badly at all. He followed up his economical, but wicketless, spell in the first ODI with a three-for in the second. The control that he has provided hides all signs that he started bowling spin as recently as last month. It will be interesting to see how he develops in the series, especially since Mohammad Hafeez cannot bowl.
There is an award at the end of every game for the fastest bowler of the match and every day, it ends up inAdam Milne's pocket. Breaching the 150 kph barrier has been an easy job for Milne, but the wickets column has remained generally bare for him. The two wickets he picked in the last match doubled his ODI tally to four and it may just be the confidence-booster the young bowler needs.
Misbah-ul-Haq's injury means Shahid Afridi will lead the side in the remaining ODIs. Anwar Ali and Yasir Shah have been named in place of Umar Gul and Bilawal Bhatti, but it remains to be seen if they find a place in the XI.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Haris Sohail, 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 8 Shahid Afridi (capt), 9 Sohail Tanvir, 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Mohammad Irfan
New Zealand, after the win in the last game, are likely to play the same XI.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Anton Devcich, 2 Dean Brownlie, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Daniel Vettori, 9 Mitchell McClenaghan, 10 Adam Milne, 11 Matt Henry
Pacers from both teams extracted disconcerting bounce from the shiny Sharjah pitch, although it was mainly because of the bowlers' abilities. For batsmen prepared to spend time, it remains a decent pitch to bat. Dew will remain a factor; it showed up in the latter half of New Zealand's innings and Pakistan's bowlers served up a few full-tosses.
Stats & trivia
The last ODI was only the fourth instance of Pakistan losing all 10 wickets to pacers at home. The previous instance was also in Sharjah, against Australia in 2012
- Ross Taylor has 1043 ODI runs in Asia in the last five years. He is only behind AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla in the list of leading non-asian batsmen in this period.
- 13,138 - Runs given by Shahid Afridi, the most by any bowler in ODIs
"We are trying to build the right combination for the World Cup and these issues have not allowed us to do so."
Waqar Younis, the Pakistan coach, on the loss of two bowlers in Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal © ESPN Sports Media Ltd.