Dubai: Pakistan and New Zealand dedicated the trophy for their two Twenty20 matches in the Dubai starting on Thursday in memory of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes who died last week.
Hughes died last Thursday, two days after being hit by a bouncer in a first class match in Sydney, leaving the cricketing world to mourn his death. Hughes's funeral was held early Wednesday, as Pakistan and New Zealand prepare for the shortest format of the game after drawing a preceding Test series 1-1. Pakistan's Twenty20 captain Shahid Afridi said Hughes's tragic death has left the cricketing world in a shock.
"Hughes died very young and his tragic death has left everyone shocked," said Afridi on Wednesday. "We are thankful to the sponsors who have decided to dedicate the trophy in memory of Hughes as a mark of respect," said Afridi on Wednesday. Pakistan are boosted by the return of paceman Umar Gul, who has not played international cricket since April due to a knee problem. Gul is the second highest wicket-taker in Twenty20 with 80 in 56 games, five behind Ajmal's 85.
He famously took 5-6 in a World Twenty20 group match against New Zealand at The Oval when Pakistan won the title in 2009. Pakistan will hope their pace attack, which also includes the lanky 7ft, 1 inch (2.1m) Mohammad Irfan supplement the bowling attack which has spinners in Raza Hasan and Shahid Afridi. Pakistan had a miserable World Twenty20 in Bangladesh where they failed to reach the last four for the first time in five editions of the tournament.
That prompted captain Mohammad Hafeez to step down, giving the responsibility to all-rounder Afridi for a second stint. But Afridi's return as captain wasn't auspicious as Pakistan lost the only Twenty20 against Australia in Dubai in October by six wickets.
Afridi said Pakistan will not underestimate New Zealand who are without their dashing skipper Brendon McCullum who, along with pacemen Tim Southee and Trent Boult, have returned to New Zealand to prepare for the upcoming home series against Sri Lanka. "New Zealand are a dangerous limited over side and we will not underestimate them," said Afridi. "We have to be at out best to beat them."
McCullum smashed a brilliant 202 to help New Zealand win the third and final Test in Sharjah on Sunday in the series-levelling win. Kane Williamson, who has led New Zealand in three one-day matches and two Twenty20s will lead the Black Caps while Ross Taylor, fast bowler Adam Milne and batting all-rounder Anton Devcich return to the squad.
Pacemen Mitchell McClenaghan and Kyle Mills and spinner Nathan McCullum will also boost New Zealand. Pakistan have beaten New Zealand in six of their nine Twenty20s with three losses. After the second Twentyw20, also in Dubai on Friday, both teams will play five one-day internationals.
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Awais Zia, Anwar Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Irfan, Raza Hasan, Saad Nasim, Sarfraz Ahmed, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz. New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Corey Anderson, Dean Brownlie, Anton Devcich, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, James Neesham, Luke Ronchi, Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori Umpires: Ahsan Raza (PAK) and Ahmed Shahab (PAK) Tv umpire: Shozab Raza (PAK) Match referee: Roshan Mahnama (SRI)