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03 March 201509:36 By Anand Vasu, Napier

Pakistan v UAE Preview, Match 25, Napier

Pakistan should be eyeing a big win, but UAE must believe it has a chance against its below-par opponent

Pakistan v UAE Preview, Match 25, Napier - Cricket News

Pakistan players celebrate the wicket of Rohit Sharma.

When the going is good, there are few jobs in cricket that guarantee adulation as readily as that of captain of a team such as India or Pakistan. Such is the fervour among cricket fans in the two countries, that it is often said that the cricket captain’s job is more coveted than that of the head of state. But the flip side of this is ugly. When the team is losing, there is no worse chair to be seated in.

Misbah-ul-Haq is facing so much fire at the moment, with Pakistan having won only one of the three matches it has played, and the two losses being heavy ones, he should borrow the line made famous by Kevin Pietersen: It’s hard being me. Back home, fans are venting their ire, and even good individual performances have not insulated Misbah from attack.

But Misbah is too calm and composed to be rattled by this sort of thing, too sensible and mature to let the off-field drama overshadow the actual task at hand. But what is a genuine cause for worry is the utter lack of runs from the top order.

Ahmed Shahzad, Nasir Jamshed, Haris Sohail and Umar Akmal have collectively failed to fire, and when this happens, there is little any captain can do. The form and fitness of Jamshed have come in for serious scrutiny, and there is no denying the fact that he looks rusty at the crease and slow on the field. Calls have been made for Sarfraz Ahmed to take Jamshed’s place, and the match on Wednesday (March 4) against United Arab Emirates would provide the best possible opportunity to give Sarfraz his first hit of the tournament. The management, however, could well take the view that the UAE game is the best chance to get Jamshed back into some sort of form.

For Pakistan, the challenge is more than picking up two crucial points. Pakistan knocks off three matches in seven days, with significant travel involved. Add to this the fact that it had to acclimatise to vastly different conditions – hot, humid Brisbane is far removed from Napier – and varying pitches, and you know it has its task cut out.

While Pakistan will begin by looking for a simple win, it also knows that there was every chance of a logjam for the final two qualifying spots from Pool B. India and South Africa are sitting pretty, but Pakistan will certainly be in competition with Ireland and West Indies, if it gets enough points on the board. This will bring net run-rate into play, and on this count Pakistan is far behind at -1.373, lower even than UAE. This means that it really needs a couple of big wins, and it must be thinking that UAE provide the most realistic possibility of achieving this.

For the UAE team, this match is a major opportunity as well. As many as nine players in the UAE squad are from Pakistan and the best game to win would have been the India one. However, the gulf between the two teams was huge in that encounter, with a rampant India blowing its less experienced opponent away. Pakistan is hardly in a similar situation, and if it starts the game badly, UAE will believe it has a chance to exert some pressure and try and force the mistake.

A major strength of UAE has been the manner in which its batting has fired when it has had the chance to bat first, a couple of games notwithstanding. UAE has consistently looked like making something in excess of 270, which gives it a fighting chance.

Pakistan: Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad, Haris Sohail, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Umar Akmal (wk), Shahid Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Ehsan Adil, Sarfraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah, Younis Khan.

UAE: Amjad Ali, Andri Berenger, Krishna Chandran, Khurram Khan, Swapnil Patil (wk), Shaiman Anwar, Rohan Mustafa, Fahad Alhashmi, Nasir Aziz, Amjad Javed, Mohammad Naveed, Mohammad Tauqir (capt), Manjula Guruge, Kamran Shazad, Saqlain Haider.