The limited-overs cricket of Pakistan’s home season is almost done and dusted. Following Australia’s thumping in both Test and T20Is, 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 Test cricket. Pakistan will be playing their sixth Test this year while the Kiwis will don the whites only for the third time this year with their two games in the longest format coming against England at home earlier this year.
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. Their players have gotten a good time out in the UAE heat, as the tour is also the Kiwis’ first international assignment since the England series at home.
Pakistan decided to rest Fakhar Zaman and Shadab Khan for the New Zealand Tests while Wahab Riaz and Usman Salahuddin have been dropped from the side that faced Australia last month. The good news for Pakistan is that Imam-ul-Haq, who had injured his finger during Dubai Test, 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 Hassan Ali or Mir Hamza are the probables.
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.
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, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi