The limited-overs cricket of Pakistan’s home season is almost done and dusted. Following Australia’s thumping in both Tests and Twenty20 internationals, Pakistan clean-swept the New Zealand in the T20I series before the three-match one-day series ended in a draw with the final ODI rained out.
With all that in the back now, both team’s focus shifts to the longest format. Pakistan will be playing their sixth Test this year while the Kiwis will don the whites only for the third time with their two games coming against England at home earlier this year.
New Zealand will be playing their third Test match in this year ©AFP
Pakistan have a stellar Test record this year. They defeated Ireland in their debut Test before leveling England in the summer. In their most recent two-Test assignment against the Aussies, the home side took the series 1-0.
On the other hand, the Kiwis won their only series 1-0 against England. While their players have been a bit rusty due to lack of international cricket, most of them got a go at the start of their domestic season as well as against Pakistan A in the United Arab Emirates. Also, a majority of these guys were also involved in the limited-over series with Pakistan.
Pakistan decided to rest Fakhar Zaman and Shadab Khan for the New Zealand Tests while Wahab Riaz and Usman Salahuddin were dropped from the side that faced Australia last month. The good news for Pakistan is that Imam-ul-Haq, who was hit on the head during the ODI series, has recovered and is expected to open alongside Mohammad Hafeez.
The only undecided place might be the second seamer. Wahab Riaz had partnered Mohammad Abbas in the Abu Dhabi Test while Mir Hamza was handed debut in Dubai against Australia. They have in-form Shaheen Shah Afridi in the squad but Hasan Ali or Mir Hamza are the probables.
Shaheen Shah Afridi ended up with 9 wickets in the ODI series ©AFP
On the visitors’ side, their skipper Kane Williamson has been an injury doubt but the reports suggest that he will be fit in time to lead the side. Opener Jeet Raval will come in the side to partner with Tom Latham. Meanwhile, Henry Nicholls and regular wicketkeeper BJ Watling will return to the middle-order as well. What remains to be seen is the composition of the Kiwis’ bowling lineup.
With the top six spots almost confirmed, New Zealand will need to choose between the number of pacers and spinners with Colin de Grandhomme available as the all-round option. Ish Sodhi had a decent limited overs leg while Todd Astle has also got enough game time to be ready for the match. The other option is Ajaz Patel, who made his T20I debut against Pakistan recently. Similarly, on the pace side, if de Grandhomme plays, it means one out of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner will miss out. Toss will be crucial in Abu Dhabi.
Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (c)(wk), Bilal Asif, Yasir Shah, Mir Hamza/Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas
Jeet Raval, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Todd Astle/Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee/Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi