Pakistan Vs New Zealand - 2nd Semi Final Of The 2009 Cricket Champions Trophy - A Preview By Cricinfo

Sri Lanka will now be a distant memory for these two teams. Leading into this tournament, both Pakistan and New Zealand took turns in getting battered and bruised in the heat and humidity of Sri Lanka. They came to South Africa with doubts looming over their ability to stick it out with other teams in formats longer than Twenty20. Both duly won their Twenty20s in Sri Lanka, and lost both Tests and ODIs comprehensively.

The weather in South Africa has been different, and so have been the results. New Zealand extracted swift revenge, knocking Sri Lanka out. But with every passing match they seem to be losing one player to injury. During their must-win game against England, Grant Elliot joined Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder and Daryl Tuffey on the injured list, and Scott Styris has been flown in as a stand-by. Their travel agent won't mind flying another man in, if that means making it to the next stage.

Their opponents have no such problems. Unlike their famous triumphs, the 1992 World Cup and the World Twenty20 earlier this year, Pakistan have looked solid from the off in South Africa. They have looked more like the Pakistan of the 1999 World Cup. Their bowling attack has appeared the most settled, the most varied, and the most skilful of the lot in this tournament. Their batting is the weak link - it has fluctuated from very good, against India, to circumspect, against Australia and West Indies. If Pakistan lose the toss and are put in at the Wanderers, that passage of play will be New Zealand's best chance of making this a close contest.

On paper Pakistan are favourites, and over the years they have used New Zealand as a stepping-stone in big tournaments. In 1992, New Zealand's first defeat in the World Cup opened doors for Pakistan's progress to the semi-final, where they were beaten by the same opposition. The semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup and 2007 World Twenty20 were a repeat. In the World Twenty20 in 2009, it was against New Zealand that Pakistan discovered momentum, and never lost it. New Zealand supporters, though, would want to look back at the semi-final of the Champions Trophy in 2000, when they beat Pakistan, and went on to win the final too.

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