ABU DHABI // Younus Khan has gone from being Pakistan's unquestioned leader to having his position questioned within the space of five days and one defeat. He could go a long way to staving off the doubters for at least two more days, before the two Twenty20 matches in Dubai at the weekend, by regaining his lost touch with the bat this afternoon.
If he does, and victory over New Zealand follows, it would give Pakistan their first 50-overs series win for a year. He has the backing of the Pakistan coach, Intikhab Alam, who believes Younus will prove his class at the Zayed Stadium today. "This [a poor run of form] can happen to everybody," Intikhab said. "He is a good cricketer and I'm sure he will get it together at the right time." Pakistan are without a Test series success in three years but Younus remains in credit after he delivered World Twenty20 success in England in June.
Intikhab hopes the capitulation in the second one-day international, which followed a comprehensive win on the opening night, will be quickly forgotten today. "I hope it doesn't happen again, this is a vital game, with the series at 1-1, so now we have to perform to our ability," he said. "We have to be positive and we have to make sure we field well. We also expect a great deal from our middle-order and they will come good at the right time."
Friday night's success was New Zealand's first win against Pakistan in the UAE in 12 attempts, a record stretching back to 1986 and the days of Martin Crowe and Ken Rutherford. If a first series win follows tonight it will likely be founded on their outstanding fielding. "I rate New Zealand as one of the best fielding sides in the world today," said Intikhab. It was a pity the MCC delegation who met the International Cricket Council in Dubai last week left the country before Friday's match. They could have written a new manual on fielding techniques based on the collective performance of New Zealand's players at Zayed Stadium.
In Kyle Mills, the Kiwis have the world's best one-day bowler. Ranking points are not given out for fielding, but if they were, Martin Guptill would not be far from the top of the pile. "It can win games for you," said the New Zealand captain, Daniel Vettori. "You don't need the bowlers to do anything. Those guys can come in and play a part. The likes of Guptill, Neil Broom and Ross Taylor really make a difference to our side, and complement our bowling."
Vettori expects his side to thrive, given the do-or-die nature of today's encounter. "We have to look at it as a must-win game, and I suppose that is what we did well at the Champions Trophy," he said. "Most of the games we played we had to win and we stepped up. We know Pakistan are going to come back pretty hard. "There is something left for us because a few guys have a little bit to show on this tour. We will be counting on those guys, as well as the ones who have performed, to do it one more time."
@Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Pakistan v New Zealand, 3rd Cool & Cool Cup one-day international, 3pm, Zayed Stadium