Match preview – New Zealand vs Pakistan, New Zealand v Pakistan 2020, 1st test

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This isn’t the Boxing Day Test that will fill the most column inches, generate the most app notifications, or create the most viral hashtags on Twitter. Mount Maunganui, sadly, cannot compete with Melbourne as New Zealand and Pakistan are not quite up to par with their gigantic neighbors, Australia and India, who also face off on the same day. But for those interested in more niche contests, more arcane storylines, and arguably equally compelling cricket, tuning into this test instead of that promises to leave you equally sated.

Put aside the financial power of Australia and India and you will find that New Zealand and Pakistan are well contrasted in cricket. New Zealand, for example, have no plans to play dark horses with anyone these days, as they look to clinch two more test wins to complete the 2-0 series win against the West Indies and get a foot in the final of the Test world championship. Pakistan, though heavily underdog, will be backed by an impressive performance against England despite losing the series 1-0; the score doesn’t quite reflect how close they were to a memorable series win. If they can bring the same battle, and more importantly, the quality of bowling, to these two tests, New Zealand will find that these tests won’t be the child’s play that Jason Holder’s men ended up being.

New Zealand, however, is a frighteningly well-oiled machine that relentlessly accumulates series wins at home. Only South Africa and Australia have beaten New Zealand in a series of home tests since January 2011. For much of this time, the core of this team likely contained two hitters and two bowlers who rank between New Zealand’s greatest cricketers: Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tim Southee and Trent Boult. The presence of Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls and Neil Wagner ensures that the home team is neither unbalanced nor overly dependent on a handful of individuals.

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