© Getty Images
© Getty Images

New Zealand will face off against Pakistan in the third and concluding One-Day International (ODI) of the three-match series at Auckland’s Eden Park. The series stands 1-0 in favour of the Black Caps with the second match at Napier having been washed out without the delivery of a single ball. New Zealand will have the upper hand in terms of confidence as they are at a stage where they can’t lose the series. Pakistan will look to spoil skipper Brendon McCullum’s return party but New Zealand will battle that wee bit hard to make it special for their retiring skipper. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: New Zealand vs Pakistan 3rd ODI at Auckland

While one of New Zealand’s first-choice openers in McCullum makes it back to the squad, the other’s participation is in doubt. Martin Guptill sprained an ankle during a fielding session and may have to miss out. Tom Latham, who is yet to impress in coloured-clothing as he has in the whites, is likely to be McCullum’s co-opener in this scenario.

Things look rather rosy in New Zealand’s batting order. They have developed a habit of recovering from the most unlikely situations with magical innings produced from the most unexpected candidates. The latest manifestation of this phenomenon was in the first ODI at Wellington where New Zealand bounced back from a dicey position to a match-winning score.

Henry Nicholls batting at No. 4 produced a gritty knock to inspire New Zealand’s comeback from a lowly 99 for 6. He scored a sangfroid 82 as New Zealand dramatically came back in the contest. His knock inspired handy knocks from Mitchell Santner and even tailenders Matt Henry and Mitchell McClenaghan.

Pakistan’s pacers were phenomenal upfront but lost the plot when Nicholls played his fine innings. Mohammad Aamer was the pick of the bowlers as he continued his rise up the ranks with figures reading 28 for 3 in 8.1 overs. Mohammad Irfan also bowled very well. Anwar Ali was primarily responsible for New Zealand’s top order disaster but could not finish well.

Pakistan’s response with the bat in chase of 281 never really kicked on with the Kiwis making breakthroughs every now and then. The impressive thing about their effort with the ball was that they overpowered the Pakistanis even though one bowler short in McClenaghan. McClenaghan had been felled by an Anwar Ali bouncer while batting which resulted in a fractured left eye socket, which ruled him out of the game and a few series to come.

New Zealand put on a fine display nonetheless. Grant Elliott committed most wreckage to Pakistan’s batting with his gentle-paced outswingers. He dismissed the likes of Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shehzad and Sohaib Maqsood cheaply.

Pakistan had a brief ray of hope in a partnership between Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez, but after Hafeez fell to Williamson it went downhill again. Azam played a sedate knock but the pressure of the asking rate bogged him down and with no one to support him at the other end he fell for 62 to Corey Anderson.

Trent Boult, despite his good spell upfront, had gone wicketless. He made amends to that in his next spell as he cleaned up the lower order with four wickets in just two overs to leave Pakistan an embarrassing 70 runs short.

New Zealand are looking like the side to beat at the moment. Yet, given the unpredictable nature of Pakistan, if they decide to make it their match at Auckland, New Zealand might be left scratching their heads. It should be a cracker of a contest to conclude the series.

New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Tom Latham (first two ODIs), Brendon McCullum (third ODI), Kane Williamson, Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls, Grant Elliott, Corey Anderson, BJ Watling (wk), Mitchell Santner, Adam Milne, Matt Henry, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell.

Pakistan: Azhar Ali (c), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sohaib Maqsood, Zafar Gohar, Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Wahab Raiz, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Aamer.

Time: (11:00 local | 03:30 IST | 22:00 GMT -1d)

(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)