Pakistan and New Zealand prepare for Dubai T20 series marred by tragedy in Australia

Trophy for series will be dedicated to memory of deceased Australian cricket Phillip Hughes

Pakistani Twenty20 cricketers warm up during a net session at Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on December 3, 2014.. Aamir Qureshi / AFP
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DUBAI // Pakistan and New Zealand dedicated the trophy for their two Twenty20 matches in Dubai, which begin on Thursday, to the 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 died very young, and his tragic death has left everyone shocked," said Shahid Afridi, the Pakistan Twenty20 captain. "We are thankful to the sponsors, who have decided to dedicate the trophy in memory of Hughes as a mark of respect."

Pakistan are boosted by the return of paceman Umar Gul, who has not played international cricket since April because of a knee problem.

Gul is the second-highest wicket-taker in Twenty20 with 80 in 56 games, five behind Saeed Ajmal’s 85.

He famously took five for six 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 includes 2.16-metre Mohammad Irfan, supplements a bowling attack featuring spinners in Raza Hasan and Shahid Afridi.

Pakistan had a miserable World T20 in Bangladesh, where they failed to reach the last four for the first time in five editions of the tournament.

The performance prompted captain Mohammad Hafeez to step down, giving the responsibility to all-rounder Afridi for a second stint.

But Afridi’s return as captain was not 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 captain Brendon McCullum, who, along with pacemen Tim Southee and Trent Boult, has 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,” Afridi said. “We have to be at out best to beat them.”

McCullum smashed a 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 T20s, will lead the Black Caps, while Ross Taylor, fast bowler Adam Milne and batting all-rounder Anton Devcich return to the squad.

Pakistan have beaten New Zealand in six of their nine T20s, with three losses.

After the second T20, to be played in Dubai on Friday, both teams will play five one-day internationals.

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