Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Can New Zealand overcome form, injury woes?

New Zealand have reason to feel exasperated. They have attempted everything to turn around their string of losses; in fact, there can be a case that they have tried too hard. They have brought in a capable new coach, rotated their players faster than a revolving door spins, tinkered around with the batting order, and even broken one of their most successful opening combinations. But at least one of their many old failings continues to crop up at crucial junctures.

If the misfiring top order manages to provide a good start, the middle order contrives to cave in. When the top order suffers one of its spectacular collapses after seemingly promising starts, the middle order gets involved in the repair job, and they end up with a below-par total. And on the rare occasion that the batsmen fire collectively, and the bowlers have kept the opposition in check, they inevitably manage to run in to a rampant batsman who takes the game away from their grasp. In the bowlers' defence, there just haven't been enough runs to play with, with the batsmen crossing 250 only thrice in the previous 14 matches, 13 of which have been lost.

If the fact that one more series is now on the line isn't motivation enough for the home team, they need look no further than their opponents. Despite all the issues surrounding the side, Pakistan have started to give the feeling of approaching somewhere close to being a settled side. The current captain and vice-captain have played major roles in their respective wins in the series, and the mutual admiration has overflowed from Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq. If some of that feel-good can translate into another match-winning performance, Pakistan will leave New Zealand with Test and one-day series wins, a massive achievement considering what has gone on in the previous six months

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