Shaheen Afridi was superb at the death, Pakistan v New Zealand. Photo: AFP
In Pakistan's eight consecutive T20I wins, they've been stretched in just two. The comfort with which they cruised to their 11th T20I series win - trouncing New Zealand by six wickets in Dubai - has been a hallmark of their dominance that has seen them climb to the top of the rankings.
Another series sweep, after they humbled Australia, will see Pakistan pick up a 13-point lead over second-placed India. In the 11-run win over Australia in the previous series and the two-run win over New Zealand in the first T20I of the three-match series - the only two instances where the opposition has come close before faltering - the batsmen were just about under par before the bowlers bailed the team out.
And hence, the plan for New Zealand is a straightforward one. Keep Pakistan in check and restrict them under 140 if chasing. If Kane Williamson and Co. do end up batting front, they need to find a quick fix to a wobbly middle order. In both games in the series so far, Colin Munro has blazed away early on and set the perfect platform only to see the middle-order flush his effort down the drain.
Pakistan have successfully managed to tie down the experienced New Zealand middle-order with the likes of Williamson, Ross Taylor and Corey Anderson struggling to provide the finishing touches. New Zealand need Glenn Phillips to back up the good work from Munro early on and the opener needs to find a way to tackle the Imad Wasim challenge. On both occasions, Phillips's inability to get going has nullified Munro's impact and mounted more pressure on the middle-order. Williamson too has looked scratchy and that has only hurt New Zealand.
The Pakistan think-tank will be mighty pleased with the way both Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez have come back to the national setup. However, they will be even more pleased with the way Shaheen Afridi has grown in international cricket in such a short span of time. Fakhar Zaman has struggled a touch but can bat out the opposition on his day and the hosts will hope he finds his form back ahead of the ODI series.
Even with the series conceded, New Zealand have a lot to play for, a lot to fix if they are to entertain any hopes in the succeeding ODI series.
Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Sahibzada Farhan, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Sarfraz Ahmed(c), Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Usman Khan, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Waqas Maqsood, Faheem Ashraf.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson(c), Mark Chapman, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Seth Rance, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Glenn Phillips, Ajaz Patel.