Pakistan have gone from being champions to being in shambles within the space of six months. Their winning streak is history and their batting line-up is back to pre-Champions Trophy standards. The bowling is flat, the captaincy frenzied, and the selectors running out of ideas. None of that is good news, least of all when playing a New Zealand team in sensational form and trying to avoid an ODI whitewash.
The hosts can’t put a foot wrong. After going with an unchanged XI in the first three games, they brought in Colin de Grandhomme for the fourth. He was returning from Zimbabwe after the death of his father, and could have been forgiven for being less than his usual big-hitting self. But it turned out that he was New Zealand’s star performer, smashing 74 off 40 balls in a Player-of-the-Match display that got them out of a tight spot. Kane Williamson’s men are shaking up their squad for the final game, resting Trent Boult and bringing in Seth Rance. They will view this as an ideal opportunity to blood newer players into international cricket.
With the series long since gone, the contest doesn’t nearly have the appeal a decider would, but both teams still have a stake in the outcome of this game. New Zealand will be looking for a clean sweep to extend their winning streak across formats to 12, while Pakistan are desperate for a final shot at redemption going into the T20I series.
New Zealand WWWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Since his debut in Ireland in 2016, Hasan Ali only missed one of the 31 games Pakistan have played, and until this series, he had been in sizzling form, a fact underlined by the ICC naming him the Emerging player of 2017. However, in New Zealand, things haven’t quite worked for him. Hasan has managed just six wickets at 36.1, conceding 60 runs for no wicket in the last game. It is his first real test in a career that had played out to perfection so far. How he responds in the final ODI might reveal more about the kind of player he is.
Trent Boult has grabbed the headlines throughout this series but his absence could give his fast-bowling partner Tim Southee a chance to shine. The 29-year old has taken eight wickets from the four matches this series, just one fewer than Boult, but hasn’t received the same kind of recognition. With the left-armer out of the side, this could be a chance for New Zealand’s most experienced bowler to rubber-stamp his value to the side. And, in a low-pressure game against a dispirited Pakistan, the stars may just align for him.
New Zealand have rested Boult from the last ODI, and look set to give fast bowler Seth Rance another go in international cricket.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham (wk), 6 Henry Nicholls, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Todd Astle, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Lockie Ferguson, 11 Seth Rance
Shoaib Malik will miss the final game after being struck in the head during the fourth ODI. If Imam-ul-Haq does not recovered from the finger injury that has left him sidelined as well, seamer Aamer Yamin or left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz could come in. With the Faheem Ashraf as opener experiment failing last game, Azhar Ali could also return to the top of the order.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Azhar Ali/Imam-ul-Haq, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Mohammad Hafeez, 5 Haris Sohail, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Hasan Ali, 11 Rumman Raees
Pitch and conditions
The forecast for the game is clear, though rain is expected for much of the preceding day. The Basin Reserve doesn’t host too many ODIs, but this will be the second game played at the venue in this series alone. New Zealand won the previous game, scoring 315.
Stats and trivia
Defeat for Pakistan in Wellington would be their eleventh in a row against New Zealand. The only time they lost more consecutive games against one opposition was when South Africa beat them 14 times in a row between 1995 and 2000
Babar Azam’s overall ODI average is 53.32 in 40 games. He scored 62 and 83 in his previous outings in New Zealand in 2016, but in four games in this series, he has managed only 21 runs at 5.25.
“I think everyone wants that: the team, the support staff and people around the country want to see us beat Pakistan 5-0. The motivation is definitely there,”
New Zealand opener Martin Guptill on the ‘dead rubber’ in Wellington