Most of the changes New Zealand feature will be due to injury © Getty Images
Most of the changes New Zealand feature will be due to injury © Getty Images

New Zealand will take on Pakistan in the third One-Day International (ODI) at Auckland’s iconic Eden Park with the objective to take the three-match series 2-0. The previous match of the series at Napier was abandoned without a ball being bowled which leaves scope for a tied series. New Zealand will want to stamp their authority on the proceedings in the final game and will look to play their best possible XI in light of the upcoming home assignment against Australia. There is speculation that Brendon McCullum will return after his injury layoff. Here’s a predictive look at New Zealand’s playing XI for the match at Eden Park. FULL SCORECARD: Pakistan vs New Zealand 2015-16, 3rd ODI at Auckland

Top Order: Skipper McCullum’s return means this particular area might see a change. Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson have done a fairly good job as an opening pair. However, Williamson is best suited at No. 3 and will return there if McCullum does return. McCullum and Guptill have forged a strong bond as openers and would have sought the opportunity to reunite. Unfortunately Guptill has twisted an ankle during a field session and may miss out. Tom Latham could come in to accompany McCullum as opener. Williamson has scored heaps of runs at one drop and brings stability if the openers fail.

Both Williamson and Guptill encountered rare failures in the first ODI at Wellington but that should not raise doubt over their selections given that both are established players and have had a great run this summer. ALSO READ: McCullum to return, Guptill doubtful for 3rd ODI against Pakistan at Auckland

Middle Order: The middle order is bereft of the steely Ross Taylor owing to a hip strain he picked up in the Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is). However, Henry Nicholls showed that he was up the task to fit into Taylor’s shoes with an innings of 82 that not only revived New Zealand but ultimately helped them on to a winning total in the first ODI at Wellington. He will surely retain his place.

Elliott has been in poor nick with the bat but is likely to hold on to his place given his fantastic returns with the ball which set up New Zealand’s defence of 280 in the first game. He will look to contribute with the bat. Corey Anderson has been inconsistent with the bat since his return from a lengthy injury layoff but will hold on to his spot on back of his ability with not only the bat, but also the ball. Luke Ronchi has been granted one chance too many by the management and he has squandered them far too often. Perhaps, New Zealand may give wicketkeeper BJ Watling a game to prove his mettle.

Watling is a steady asset in the Black Caps Test team but has never been presented with much of an opportunity to establish himself in the shorter forms. It is high time he was given the go ahead of a perennially underperforming Ronchi.

Lower Order and Bowling: Mitchell Santner has emerged as a great find for the Kiwis in the recent past. He is a steady bat and plays the same role with the ball using his left-arm spin. There is a level of consistency he produces in either facet and New Zealand will want to groom him. Him getting dropped is unlikely.

New Zealand might be missing the services of Tim Southee and after the brutal blow he endured last game, even Mitchell McClenaghan. Yet, they never seem short of pace-bowling resources. Apart from the all-rounders in Elliott and Anderson, they are likely to play three specialists in Trent Boult, Adam Milne and Matt Henry.

The area of contention will be whether or not to play Doug Bracewell and ahead of whom. Milne was dropped in the first ODI but is likely to make the cut ahead of Bracewell. Milne brings a dimension of venomous pace to the Kiwi attack and although his numbers remain middling, his recent performances suggest that he is finding his groove.

New Zealand likely XI for 3rd ODI at Auckland: Brendon McCullum (c), Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls, Grant Elliott, Corey Anderson, BJ Watling (wk), Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Trent Boult, Adam Milne

(Rishad D’Souza, a reporter with CricketCountry, gave up hopes of playing Test cricket after a poor gully-cricket career. He now reports on the sport. You can follow @RDcric on Twitter)