Azhar Mahmood has warned Pakistan they must win the early battles in their clash with New Zealand if they are to stand any chance of toppling the unbeaten Black Caps.
Buoyed by victory over South Africa last time out, a resurgent Pakistan will look to continue their late charge for a semifinal berth at Edgbaston today.
With Haris Sohail starring with the bat at Lord’s and the Mohammad Amir sitting atop the list of World Cup wickettakers, a tight encounter could well ensue against Kane Williamson’s in-form side.
But Mahmood, now a bowling coach within the Pakistan setup, insists renewed promise will count for nothing if the Men in Green don’t win the battle of the opening powerplay.
“They are a very strong side and have won all their games,” he told a press conference ahead of the game. They’ve got matchwinners in their side, so it’s going to be crucial for us to take wickets with the new ball.
“And when we bat, we need to get runs up front. If we can get our discipline right like last game - in batting, bowling and fielding - then we can beat any side. If we do the basics right, it’s just about us, not them.”
Still well within the hunt for a top-four berth, Pakistan have been indebted to the exceptional form of Mohammad Amir for helping to keep their qualification hopes alive.
The standout member of the pace attack so far, Amir’s form has been held up as a reference point for others within the squad - particularly fellow paceman Hasan Ali.
Yet to play a pivotal role with the ball, Mahmood believes the example of Amir shows a change in fortunes is just around the corner for Hasan.
“I think everyone in cricket, whether you’re a batsman or bowler, goes through good and bad form,” Mahmood added. “So he’s low on confidence. But he’s running in, and working hard on and off the field. You can all see that.
“It’s just a matter of getting wickets, and he’ll be back.
“The same thing happened with Amir, you know. After the Champions Trophy, he was struggling - but still bowling well. Now you can see that he’s having a good time. That’s what has happened with Hasan Ali as well.”
Pakistan all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez has scored 733 runs -- the most by any current Pakistani player -- in the 27 matches he played against New Zealand.
New Zealand’s Ross Taylor, who has amassed 1068 runs in the 26 matches against Pakistan, is the highest scorer among the players of both sides’ current World Cup squads.
Ross Taylor’s unbeaten 131, which came against Pakistan back in 2011 in Pallekele, is the highest individual score by any player on the two sides’ current squads to have played each other.
Shoaib Malik has scalped 16 wickets -- the most by any current Pakistani player -- in the 28 matches he played against the Kiwis.
Tim Southee is the highest wicket-taker among the current Kiwis against Pakistan. The right-arm quick has scalped 25 wickets in the 17 matches he played against Pakistan