The last time these two sides met in a test series was back in late 2016 in New Zealand where the hosts won both matches comfortably. A change in scenery should give Pakistan the upper hand this time around in the dry, hot and humid United Arab Emirates conditions. Another non-existent crowd could make for a pretty hollow atmosphere at Abu Dhabi going by what we saw in the Pakistan-Australia series.
Mohammad Abbas is just about the most talked about thing going around in Pakistan, and who could argue? The 28-year-old right-arm seamer ripped the Aussies apart in a two match test series in the U.A.E. last month, now he’s set his sights on the Black Caps. Abbas claimed a total of 17 wickets in the two tests including back-to-back five-wicket hauls in Abu Dhabi which helped Pakistan win the series 1-0. On top of that, Abbas just recently picked up figures of 6/42 & 6/52 in a first-class match at Karachi in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. His first-class record is astonishing, and his International career is set for even greater heights. A six-wicket haul in his test debut against Australia should see Bilal Asif hold his spot in the XI alongside fellow-spinner Yasir Shah who worked tirelessly for wickets in the last series. With Wahab Riaz being dropped from the side, one of Mir Hamza, Hasan Ali or Shaheen Afridi will be selected to team up with Mohammad Abbas for the series. There’s also a probability that some of the quicks will be rotated throughout the series if need be.
Unlike Australia, New Zealand’s tailenders can wag with the bat which could frustrate Pakistan. Despite an impressive test debut, Pakistan have decided against Fakhar Zaman for the first two tests and instead stuck with 22-year-old Imam-ul-Haq. There’d certainly be no complaints from the supporters, Imam scored 76 & 48 in the first test against the Aussies before being rested. A naturally-gifted limited-overs batsman, Imam-ul-Haq will be looking to elevate his game in the test arena with a maiden test ton. Depth won’t be an issue for the home team, the luxury of having Babar Azam at No. 6 and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed at No. 7 proved to be quite handy in Abu Dhabi last month. New Zealand will do well to restrict this Pakistani batting line-up, there’ll be plenty of runs on offer throughout the test.
This is a real danger series for New Zealand, particularly for the batsmen who’ll have to see off the red-hot Mohammad Abbas with the new ball and survive tricky-spin bowling conditions as the match progresses. Just because Australia struggled in the U.A.E. that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Black Caps will follow in their footsteps, keep in mind that the Aussies have a pretty average overseas record in recent times. In saying that, countries likes Australia, England and New Zealand aren’t used to these sorts of conditions which can potentially undo the overseas outfits. The good news for New Zealand is that Ross Taylor appears to be in relatively good touch after manufacturing two 80+ scores in the ODI series at Abu Dhabi, he’ll likely play the anchor role in the Black Caps middle order again.
As usual, Kane Williamson’s output with the bat will once again be crucial if New Zealand are to put themselves in a winning position. Early wickets are a huge possibility in this match, so the Black Caps batting-tail must wag to stagnate Pakistan’s momentum. You wouldn’t expect pace to play a huge part in this series, but going by the form guide of Mohammad Abbas it’s likely that Trent Boult and Tim Southee could make some early inroads in Abu Dhabi. New Zealand might not be able to rely on Neil Wagner’s ability to swing the ball, simply because conditions won’t allow it for extended periods in the test. It’s unknown if the Blacks Caps will take two spinners into this match, Ish Sodhi is a certainty to play while Ajaz Patel or Will Somerville could be a surprise-inclusion. Wicketkeeper BJ Watling and all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme have also shown that they’ve got cricketing nous with the bat, a potential “get out of jail free card” if the Black Caps find themselves in a spot of bother.
Top 5 fantasy picks | Pakistan | 1st test | Abu Dhabi
- Mohammad Abbas
- Azhar Ali
- Bilal Asif
- Babar Azam
Wildcard pick – Haris Sohail
Top 5 fantasy picks | New Zealand | 1st test | Abu Dhabi
- Ross Taylor
- Kane Williamson
- Trent Boult
- Tim Southee
- BJ Watling
Wildcard pick – Colin de Grandhomme
Pakistan (possible) – 1. Imam-ul-Haq 2. Mohammad Hafeez 3. Azhar Ali 4. Haris Sohail 5. Asad Shafiq 6. Babar Azam 7. Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk) 8. Bilal Asif 9. Yasir Shah 10. Mir Hamza/Hasan Ali/Shaheen Afridi 11. Mohammad Abbas.
New Zealand (possible) – 1. Jeet Raval 2. Tom Latham 3. Kane Williamson © 4. Ross Taylor 5. Henry Nicholls 6. BJ Watling (wk) 7. Colin de Grandhomme 8. Tim Southee 9. Ish Sodhi 10. Neil Wagner/Ajaz Patel 11. Trent Boult.