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Pakistan Lose Abbas Afridi to Injury, Trail 2-0 in T20I Series Against New Zealand

Pakistan’s hopes of levelling the five-match T20I series against New Zealand have been dealt a major blow as fast bowler Abbas Afridi has been ruled out of the third T20I due to a low-grade abdominal wall muscle strain.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that Abbas Afridi, who was the joint leading wicket-taker for Pakistan in the series with five scalps, will not be available for the crucial match in Dunedin on Wednesday.

The PCB said that Abbas Afridi’s scan showed no sign of significant injury, and “he will be managed symptomatically”. The board added that his availability for the last two games will be made at a later stage.

Abbas Afridi’s absence will weaken Pakistan’s bowling attack, which has already struggled to contain New Zealand’s batsmen in the first two matches.

New Zealand won the second T20I by 21 runs in Hamilton on Sunday, after posting a formidable total of 194 for 8, thanks to a blistering 74 off 41 balls by opener Finn Allen.

Pakistan’s chase got off to a shaky start as they lost both openers Mohammad Rizwan and Saim Ayub with just 10 runs on the board. Captain Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman then revived the innings with a 91-run partnership for the third wicket, both scoring half-centuries.

However, Pakistan’s hopes of a successful chase faded after Fakhar was bowled by Adam Milne for a power-packed 50 off 25 balls in the 10th over, leaving Pakistan 97 for 3.

Babar continued to fight, but he found little support from the other batsmen, and was eventually dismissed for 66 off 44 balls by Ben Sears in the 18th over.

Pakistan were bowled out for 173 in the final over, with Milne claiming four wickets for 33 runs.

New Zealand’s victory came at a cost, as their captain Kane Williamson retired hurt with a tight hamstring while batting, placing him in doubt for the remainder of the series.

Williamson felt the discomfort while running a single in the 10th over of the match, and Tim Southee took over the captaincy for the rest of the match.

New Zealand have called up Will Young as a replacement for Williamson for the third T20I, while Pakistan have not named any replacement for Abbas Afridi.

Pakistan will have to regroup and bounce back in the third T20I, if they want to keep the series alive. They will need to improve their bowling and fielding, which have been below par in the series so far.

They will also need to find more consistency and firepower in their batting, especially from the middle and lower order, which have failed to capitalise on the good starts provided by the top order.

New Zealand, on the other hand, will look to seal the series with a third consecutive win, and extend their unbeaten run in T20Is at home to 17 matches.

They will be confident of their batting depth and variety, as well as their bowling options, which have proved effective in different conditions.

The third T20I will be played at the University Oval in Dunedin, which will host its first ever T20I. The pitch is expected to be flat and good for batting, but the weather could play a role, as there is a chance of rain and strong winds.

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