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New Zealand [NZ] v Pakistan [Pak]
Match #1, Hagley Oval, Christchurch
Pakistan’s tour to New Zealand begins tomorrow with the first test. Pakistan are scheduled to play only two tests in total.
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New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Jeet Raval, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling (wk), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham
Pakistan squad: Azhar Ali, Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Nawaz, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali, Imran Khan, Sami Aslam, Sharjeel Khan, Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan
Head To Head
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The Kiwis’ worst nightmare is here. Their poorest home record is also against the Pakistanis.
The New Zealand opener Martin Gutpill has been axed. Jeet Raval will be making his debut as opener. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor’s poor forms would be a worry. The Kiwi side looks fatigued after playing too many tests recently.
Pakistan’s practice match got wiped off due to rain. So they have no match practice before playing the first test. The earth quakes in Christchurch would have made sure they haven’t hit the nets too. Apart from these setbacks history heavily lies with them. They are carrying a good form coming to New Zealand.
Previews From Other SourcesESPN CricInfo
For once, Pakistan aren’t attracting pre-series headlines. There has been no turmoil on this trip. No stirred-up talk of an embattled captaincy or selection chaos. Mohammad Amir’s re-entry into international cricket is old news. The only distraction has been Monday morning’s 7.5-magnitude earthquake, but even that has barely affected Christchurch, even if it did give the visitors a jolt in Nelson.
If there has been an uncommon dearth of diversions, it is partly because the cricket is so tantalising. Pakistan, arguably the best all-conditions team on the planet, will embark on a long southern summer in which, with some luck, they will have a tilt at the top ranking. New Zealand, battered in India and South Africa, seek to re-impose themselves on the seam-friendly venues where a formidable home record had recently been composed.
Having not lost a Test series since August 2014, Pakistan should enter the contest as favourites, only, such is the sway of home advantage in recent years, that New Zealand will not feel like underdogs on their soil.
Tim Southee returns to the side with a fresh first-class five-for, after having sat out the India Tests with injury. Neil Wagner and James Neesham have also displayed good domestic bowling form. Todd Astle may not be in the league of Yasir Shah, but he does have a five-wicket haul at Hagley Oval in the past three weeks. None of this may matter when an experienced Pakistan middle order gets moving, but after a dispiriting stint in India, these are the mildly-pleasant tidbits of information New Zealand are repeating to themselves in the mirror.
Although they had lost the Sharjah dead rubber to West Indies, there is a restrained confidence to the Pakistan side, perhaps stemming from memories of that 2-2 result in England, or even from their most-recent series in New Zealand, which they had won. Of the likely attack, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz have both played in the country. Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq have all done likewise.
New Zealand’s best hope may lie in harder, faster pitches, the likes of which helped England triumph over Pakistan in Edgbaston; the complication, being of course, that their own top order, which is low on form and carrying a newbie in opener Jeet Raval, must also withstand the bowling of Amir, Wahab and the like.
New Zealand: LLLLD (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
This year Ross Taylor has scored 456 Test runs at an average of 57, only 364 of those runs came against Zimbabwe, who had not previously played a Test in 20 months. Against other opposition, he has not scored a half-century since the 290 at Perth, over a year ago. Though his place in the side is secure for now – he was hardly the only New Zealand batsman struggling in India – Kane Williamson will hope his senior batsman will take the lead in yanking the top order out of its funk.
On the other end of the form spectrum, Azhar Ali is coming off a sublime series against West Indies, in which he hit 302 not out, 79 and 91. Following a tough 2013, Azhar has averaged over 50 in each of the past two years, and has a 2016 average of 64.08, after 14 innings. He now has the opportunity to transition from being a good player to an outstanding one. Healthy returns in New Zealand will add heft to an improving record.
Kane Williamson confirmed opener Raval will debut on Thursday, while Astle also looks set for his second Test. New Zealand have three spots for four fast bowlers, and, of those, Matt Henry looks likeliest to miss out. Allrounder James Neesham may also play ahead of Colin de Grandhomme.
New Zealand (possible): 1. Jeet Raval, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 James Neesham, 7 BJ Watling (wk), 8 Todd Astle, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Trent Boult
Pakistan are also faced with decisions on their attack. As the pitch appears seam friendly, Sohail Khan may feature alongside Amir, Wahab and Yasir. Babar Azam may make it into the side on the strength of his half-century on debut against West Indies, failing which Mohammad Rizwan could be in store for a debut.
Pakistan(possible): 1 Sami Aslam, 2 Azhar Ali, 3 Asad Shafiq, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Babar Azam/Mohammad Rizwan, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 8 Wahab Riaz, 9 Yasir Shah, 10 Mohammad Amir, 11 Sohail Khan
Pitch and conditions
The Hagley Oval surface has generally been spicy on the first three mornings, before flattening out towards the end of the day, and the Test. Rain is forecast for Thursday and Friday, but it is expected to clear by the weekend.
Stats and trivia
- Both Misbah and Alastair Cook have 24 Test victories as captain, making them the most successful leaders still active in the game. Both men have the chance to edge ahead, with England’s match with India also starting on Thursday
- The Christchurch Test is Williamson’s first as captain, at home. He has begun his leadership career with two victories, one draw and three losses
- New Zealand have not beaten Pakistan in a series since 1985. In 53 Tests between the teams, New Zealand have won just eight matches; Pakistan have won 24.
“Home advantage is a good thing, I think, but it provides opportunities for both sides, and a side like Pakistan who have toured well for a while now will know that. They’ll expect their seamers to do well.”
“We need to make sure that we bat with discipline and put good scores on the board. Our bowling is very much capable of performing well in any sort of conditions.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
New Zealand, who put up sub-par performances in India, to hurtle to a 3-0 Test series defeat, will look for a reversal of fortunes in far more familiar terrain of home conditions. On spinner-friendly tracks of India, New Zealand’s tour quickly went pear-shaped as none of the batsmen were able to adjust to different climes.
As it turned out to be a collective batting failure, New Zealand have ushered in quite a few changes. Jeet Raval, the 28-year-old left-handed batsman from Auckland, replaced the misfiring Martin Guptill. The 30-year-old opener compiled just 393 runs at a disappointing average of 24.56 in the traditional format this year.
Raval, on the other hand, has been in prolific form in the domestic circuit, having netted in 781 runs at an average of 55.71 in the 2015-16 Plunket Shield. Even this season, he has notched up 244 runs at a noteworthy average of 40.66. The southpaw is also known for his aggressive approach against the spinners. The point can be encapsulated by Raval repeatedly chipping down the track to take on Otago Volts’ spinners in the Plunket Shield in the 2015-16 season to crunch an unbeaten 202.
The all-round duo of Colin de Grandhomme and Todd Astle are the other two new faces in the squad. Incidentally, Astle donned his first Test cap against Sri Lanka in November 2012, but since then, hasn’t represented the national team in the longest format. Surprisingly, despite topping the batting charts for New Zealand in the three-match Test rubber in India, Luke Ronchi doesn’t find a place in the side. Ish Sodhi, Jeetan Patel and Doug Bracewell too have been ignored.
Kane Williamson, the New Zealand captain, and Tom Latham will be expected to form the backbone of the batting line-up. Ross Taylor, who ran into poor form during the tour of India, will be aiming to make an impact. Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner form the core of the pace attack, with Matt Henry providing the back-up option. Southee, who missed the Test series in India, due to an ankle injury, will be hoping to lift his game and prove his mettle in Test cricket. The 27-year-old swing bowler has bagged only 14 wickets at 46.14 this year.
Pakistan, their opponents, were said to be shaken by the earthquake. The tourists were escorted out of their Nelson hotel to safer waters. Pakistan, though, will look to put the incident behind them and focus on the first Test.
In the recently-concluded Test series against West Indies, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Misbah-ul-Haq, Sami Aslam and Sarfraz Ahmed reeled off big scores. Pakistan’s batsmen, however, will have to attune to the cold climes of New Zealand quickly. The track at the Hagley Oval generally provides assistance for the seamers up front and the visiting batsmen could be tested. Pakistan’s think-tank will also be concerned with the fact that their batsmen crumbled under pressure in the final Test of the series against West Indies.
On the bowling front, Pakistan have good pace-bowling stocks, comprising Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali. Wahab was a cut above the rest of the pacers in the series against West Indies and ended up with 10 wickets. Amir hasn’t exactly been at his best since he returned to the Test fold, and will seek an upturn in his fortunes. With the ace legspinner Yasir Shah, also in the ranks, Pakistan have a well-rounded attack.
New Zealand: Raval will don the white flannels for the first time, while Astle too is set to add to his solitary Test cap. Among the bowlers, Wagner might get the nod ahead of Henry.
Pakistan: Sohail and Rahat are the two pacers in contention to fill the third seamer’s slot. Babar Azam might slot in at No.6 position in the batting line-up.
When: Thursday, November 17, 2016, 10:30 AM Local
Where: Hagley Oval, Christchurch
What to expect: As per the weather forecast, a few showers are set to play spoilsport tomorrow. The curator is expected to leave a decent covering of grass and that could aid the seamers first up. Interestingly, the tourists haven’t lost a Test series in New Zealand since 1985.
What they said:
“Most of our players have been to New Zealand before, and they know how these conditions can be different from what we are used to. We need to make sure that we bat with discipline and put good scores on the board. Our bowling is very much capable of performing well in any sort of conditions.” – Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan skipper
“Home advantage is a good thing, I think, but it provides opportunities for both sides, and a side like Pakistan who have toured well for a while now will know that. A side that has shown they can adapt well all over the world. They’ve got a good seam attack, a very good spinner in Yasir Shah, and their batsmen are very experienced.” – Kane Williamson, New Zealand skipper.
The aftershocks of the earthquake continue in Christchurch. A tsunami warning has been given. Some mild rain is predicted over the weekends. Considering Pakistan’s record in New Zealand and nature I’m going with Double Chance on Pakistan.
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