Pakistan vs New Zealand 1st Test: Preview and Prediction
Pakistan will play New Zealand in a two-match test series, slated to begin on Boxing Day at the Karachi stadium. The men in green will play the Kiwis for the first time since they clashed in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup, however, in the longest format of the game.
Interestingly, chances for both teams to make it to the final of the World Test Championship look pretty slim, more so for Pakistan. Babar Azam’s men currently sit seventh on the World Test Championship table owing to their 0-3 mauling by England.
New Zealand defeated India at Lords last year to bag the title of the finest test team of the year. However, their chances of defending the title are over as they currently sit in the eighth position, which makes winning both tests mandatory for Pakistan to try to eke their way to the top of the table.
Both teams have lost several test matches on the trot, with the Kiwis, too, losing to England earlier this year.
What have they done so far?
Kane Williamson relieved himself of the captaincy of the test team ahead of the Black Caps’ tour of Pakistan. Tim Southee will be leading the side.
Southee will lead a new-look squad that will be without fellow quicks Trent Boult (unavailable) and Kyle Jamieson (back injury), with veteran spinner Ish Sodhi and white-ball specialist Glenn Phillips among the players included.
New Zealand will be visiting the Asian country for the first time since 2013 and with a somewhat revamped squad, Southee and co will be hoping to return to winning ways and ruin Pakistan’s chances of turning things around at home after a miserable show against England.
Ace Pakistani bowlers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf won’t feature in the series as they’re currently recovering from their respective injuries. Instead, Naseem Shah and Hasan Ali have been recalled to the test squad. Furthermore, Pakistan has also included uncapped batsman Kamran Ghulam in its 16-member squad.
As for the Kiwis, Sodhi has received a test call-up after four years and might be pairing up with Ajaz Patel, who has the capability of single-handedly running through a team’s roster.
A lot of questions have been raised about Williamson’s form recently. It’s possible that Williamson will play a more supportive role to vice-captain Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, and Henry Nicholls.
Head to Head Record
Pakistan has been the dominant side whenever the two teams have locked horns with each other. The men in green and the Kiwis have played 60 matches against each other in which the former have emerged victorious 25 times, of which 13 victories have come at home.
However, New Zealand has won four of the last five test matches the two teams have played against one another, which makes them favorites to emerge victorious in the South Asian country.
New Zealand, however, has won just two matches in Pakistan and will be hoping to increase the tally beginning December 26. Incidentally, the Black Caps have won nine games at home while the two behemoths have shared the loot 21 times.
Babar Azam (Pakistan): The Pakistani skipper has on and off shown why he deserves that number 3 spot in the ICC test rankings. Pakistan came pretty close to toppling England in the penultimate test match against them, with Azam chipping in 54 runs in the second innings.
Azam scored one century in the series against England, which came in the first match, and in the first innings of the second match, he managed to score 75, reiterating that he has been in touch but needs to pile on the momentum to bag a win against the Kiwis.
Tim Southee (New Zealand): In the absence of Trent Boult and Kyle Jamieson, the Kiwis will be relying on newly appointed captain Boult to lead the bowling attack.
Pace and outswing, however, are the main tools of Southee’s trade. His bag of 18 wickets at 17.33 in the 2011 World Cup prompted Allan Donald to say he had the potential to become the best swing bowler in the world, as he’s shown on countless occasions.
He has played 88 test matches for the Black Caps and has managed to pick 347 wickets. He has also scored a little over 1,800 runs and remains with 77 as his highest score.
Predicted Playing XI
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique/Shan Masood, Babar Azam ©, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Agha Salman, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Naseem Shah, Abrar Ahmed, Zahid Mahmood
New Zealand: Henry Nicholls, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Michael Bracewell, Glenn Phillips, Ajaz Patel, Ish Sodhi, Matt Henry, Tim Southee ©
Pakistan has a lot at stake and will be hoping to put on a good show at home to try to move up the points table and to also redeem themselves after a rather disappointing run.
New Zealand, however, has nothing to lose and will not only hope to ruin Pakistan’s chances but also to return to winning ways. Both teams will win a match each and the series will be drawn.