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NZ v PAK, 1st Test Preview: Pakistan aim to brave the earthquakes at Christchurch

Kane Williamson of New Zealand
Kane Williamson of New Zealand. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

An earthquake and several tsunami warnings have been doing the rounds around the few cluster of islands in New Zealand, but, the visiting Pakistan team seems determined to shake off their shock and play some cricket. This would not be the hardest thing in the world as they have a captain with a personality to do the same.

However, while Pakistan has a near full-strength side, New Zealand has either dropped or rested some of their most important players. Kane Williamson finds himself leading a massively depleted side against a dangerous Pakistan team that looks ever so determined.

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The Hagley Oval in Christchurch has been one of the venues in recent times that has not seen too many Test matches. Only Australia and New Zealand have won in the two Test matches played. Given the history of the Pakistan-New Zealand rivalry, it seems quite clear that an interesting series is on the cards.

Team Analysis

New Zealand

As mentioned previously, New Zealand is a side that is hurting pretty badly at the moment. After being whitewashed by a resolute and reinforced Indian side in the subcontinent earlier last month, Williamson will have his back to the wall and his captaincy will be at stake.

Playing the Pakistanis despite the latter’s obvious predicament in international cricket is anything but easy. However, in spite of this, the New Zealand management will be hopeful for the side given the fact that they are playing in familiar conditions.

With Martin Guptill dropped form the side, the Kiwis are short of an opening partner for Tom Latham. Jeet Raval’s impressive form in the domestic circuit is expected to be enough for him to make his case in the side. The absence of Mitchell Santner (injury) and Ish Sodhi (dropped) means that Todd Astle is expected to be handed a debut being the only spinner in the preliminary squad.

Pakistan

In spite of being the outright favorites in the upcoming encounter at Christchurch, the Pakistanis are also on the road to redemption. This comes shortly after they were handed a defeat by a struggling West Indies side in their final Test match at Sharjah, something they would be looking to shake off at the Hagley Oval.

Unlike Kane Williamson, Misbah-ul-Haq finds himself with a good squad, something that has stuck together since their impressive tour of England. The 42-year old is yet to divulge his retirement plans, but it seems quite clear that he will continue on his merry way at least until the close of the Australia series.

As far as the team selection goes, there is expected to be little or no change from the side that lost to the West Indies in Sharjah. Perhaps the only conundrum the Pakistanis face would probably be the selection of the three left-arm pacers available in the side. Rahat Ali however, is favourite to be relegated to the bench with Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir expected to make the cut for the first Test.

Playing XI (Probable)

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (C), BJ Watling (WK), Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, James Neesham, Todd Astle, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult

Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (C), Sarfraz Ahmed (WK), Azhar Ali, Sami Aslam, Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Babar Azam, Yasir Shah, Sohail Khan, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz

StAttack:

1. The last time New Zealand won a Test series against Pakistan in 1984/85. Since then, Pakistan has won seven series and the rest of which have been drawn.

2. New Zealand has won just the two Test series against Pakistan in all the Test cricket played between them. Also, Pakistan has never played at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch.

3. Misbah-ul-Haq requires 169 runs to complete 5000 Test match runs.

4. Sarfraz Ahmed requires 15 catches to complete 100 Test match catches. He will become only the sixth Pakistani wicketkeeper-batsman to pull off this feat.

5. Ross Taylor requires 2 more centuries to become the joint top-centurion for New Zealand in Test matches. Taylor has 15 centuries and is 2 behind former New Zealand skipper Martin Crowe. Kane Williamson is on 14 Test centuries at the moment.

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