Auckland - Pakistan hope to end the dismal tour of New Zealand on high note by registering victory in their third and final One-Day International against high-flying Kiwis today (Sunday) morning at 3 am.

Since January 2015, New Zealand has won the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, reached the final of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup and emerged victorious all the three ODI series it has played at home. Should it go on to win the third and final ODI against Pakistan in Auckland on Sunday (January 31), it could move to third in the rankings.

It's all the more remarkable considering that New Zealand has not necessarily been playing its first-choice XIs. The side has been hit with several injuries over the past few weeks, notably Brendon McCullum (back), Tim Southee (foot), Ross Taylor (side), Mitchell McClenaghan (face) and, now, Martin Guptill has rolled his ankle on the eve of the match. Most sides would press the panic button should some of its key players be out of action. Not New Zealand. New faces have stepped up and helped the side out of strife when required.

Match starts at 3:00 AM

It's something Pakistan might want to emulate. With Misbah-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi having retired from ODIs after the World Cup, the side has looked more than a little ragged at times. It was all too evident in the first game in Wellington, where Pakistan lost by 70 runs despite being in positions to dictate at various stages of the game, and in the earlier ODI series in the UAE, which it lost 4-1 to England. And the slide is reflected in the ICC rankings as well, where Pakistan is just about clinging on to the No. 8 position.

It’s the batting that has been Pakistan’s big problem, though, bowling wise, it looks a much more cohesive unit, and Mohammad Amir's 3 for 28 in the first game was heartening to see. But letting New Zealand reach 280 for 8 after having it on the mat at 99 for 6 suggests a lack of discipline. A washout in the second ODI in Napier has given Pakistan a chance to end a dismal tour – it lost the preceding Twenty20 International series 2-1 – on a high note. But wishes are not horses and New Zealand, never one to sit on its laurels, will be eager to drive home that point come game day.

In eight ODI innings, Babar Azam has crossed fifty four times. He was the best of Pakistan's batsmen in the first ODI, hitting the short balls confidently on a quick pitch, and building sagely alongside M Hafeez after the openers had gone cheaply. New Zealand will have studied him and formulated fresh plans in the days since, but Babar's record so far - including in domestic cricket - suggests he is a player with promise. Brendon McCullum should be back at the helm, and the top of the order, after recovering from the back injury aggravated by his kamikaze dive into advertising hoardings. In the home stretch of his career now, McCullum will be aiming to give New Zealand fans a few more manic innings by which to remember him.


PAKISTAN: Azhar Ali (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sohaib Maqsood, Zafar Gohar, Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan and M Aamir.

NEW ZEALAND: Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Brendon McCullum, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, BJ Watling (wk) and Kane Williamson.