The last time Pakistan lost to New Zealand during a tour to the country was back in 1985 where the Kiwis, under the leadership of Geoff Howarth, beat Javed Miandad-led visitors 2-0 in the three-match Test series.
Before that and since then Pakistan have always dominated the Black Caps on their turf in Tests — no series loss in last 31 years. However, this time around, the stakes are different and the troops assembled by both captains — Misbahul haq and Kane Williamson — are equipped with distinct armoury.
Both teams have undergone changes in their line-ups since the last time New Zealand hosted Pakistan back in 2011 where Misbah’s men beat the Kiwis 1-0 in the two-Test series. A number of players from the squads of 2011 will once again face each other but structural changes in the teams might prove to be the difference this time around.
2011: Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Azhar Ali, Younus Khan, Misbahul Haq (C), Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal, Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Tanvir Ahmed, Wahab Riaz, Umar Akmal, Saeed Ajmal.
2016: Misbahul Haq (C), Azhar Ali, Sami Aslam, Sharjeel Khan, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Rizwan, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Sohail Khan, Imran Khan.
New Zealand squads
2011: Tim McIntosh, Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder, Kane Williamson, Reece Young, Daniel Vettori, Tim Southee, Brent Arnel, Chris Martin, James Franklin.
2016: Kane Williamson (C), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham, Jeet Raval, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling.
One look at the squads of 2011 and the recently announced ones don’t unearth a lot of differences in team constitutions of Pakistan and New Zealand but they say a lot about what to expect in the upcoming matches at Christchurch and Hamilton.
Pakistan, with their experienced middle-order still intact, have newcomers raring to go on the opening spots. A lot is being expected from the southpaw duo of tried-and-tested Sami Aslam and the debuting Sharjeel Khan.
Moreover, the bowling unit, except Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir, will be expected to deliver in the New Zealand conditions for the first time. The inclusion of Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali, Sohail Khan and Imran Khan will provide Pakistan with enough options to incite fear in Kiwi batsmen’s mind. And if this combination is not lethal enough on the bouncy New Zealand tracks, then Misbah can always call Yasir Shah to inspire the team.
However, the fascinating factor during this series will be the New Zealand pace attack. The three-pronged attack consisting of veteran Tim Southee, left-arm quickie Trent Boult and right-arm pacer Matt Henry will test the Men in Green’s batting line-up. Also, left-arm pacer Neil Wagner is another contender for a spot in the final eleven.
Apart from the Williamson’s favoured and in-form trio, part-time pacer James Neesham and experienced spinner Todd Astle will also help Williamson in trying to uproot Pakistan’s consolidated middle-order.
Meanwhile, in the batting department, Williamson will receive support from veteran Ross Taylor while the likes of Tom Latham, BJ Watling and Henry Nicholls will provide assistance in beating the world number two team down for a historic victory.
Another interesting aspect of Kiwis’ batting line-up is the introduction of newcomers such as right-handed Auckland all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme (batting average of 35.90 and 123 wickets in 83 first-class matches) and debuting left-hand batsman Jeet Raval (average of 43.69 in 71 first-class matches). Williamson will be counting them as his surprise cards to play against Pakistan when both teams face each other.
Pakistan: When it comes to Misbah’s men and their volatility against bounce, it becomes very difficult to pick a batsman who will be able to inspire the team in New Zealand. However, Sharjeel’s prowess against the shorter delivery makes him the most favoured power player with the willow if only he is chosen to adorn the whites for Pakistan.
In the bowling department, despite Wahab’s good figures in 2011, everyone would be vouching for Amir to lead the attack. Some might argue that his last tour to England was not fruitful but if the catches had been taken off his bowling, then the figures at the end of the series would have been different.
New Zealand: For the hosts, their captain Williamson has always been the cornerstone of their batting line-up. An average of 50.31 in 54 Tests courtesy 14 tons and 23 half-centuries speaks volumes about his ability with the bat.
And with the red Kookaburra, for the Black Caps, Boult with his thunderous pace and pin-point accuracy will trouble the Pakistani batsmen.
1st Test: New Zealand versus Pakistan at Christchurch, November 17-21, starts 02:20 am
2nd Test: New Zealand versus Pakistan at Hamilton, November 25-29, starts 02:20 am