New Zealand seeks to strengthen the WTC’s final bid against impoverished Pakistan


New Zealand could have their work cut out if the Pakistani bowling unit escalates like it did in England © Getty

An impoverished team from Pakistan will be out to challenge New Zealand’s bid for a near-perfect summer in the first of this year’s three Boxing tests, at Mount Maunganui on Saturday (December 26).

Barring the third rubber T20I who died against the same opponent, the hosts have not abandoned any other game since international cricket resumed after the COVID-19 hiatus in New Zealand. In tests specifically, after their 2-0 win over the West Indies, a similar result against Pakistan will put Kane Williamson & Co. in the driver’s seat for a ticket to Lord’s for the Test Championship final. And they start as strong favorites, having thoroughly challenged Pakistan’s meager batting reserves in previous T20Is.

Visitors’ injury problems started when Babar Azam, due to his debut as a test captain in this series, fractured his right thumb a day after Imam-ul-Haq injured his left during training sessions before the T20I leg of the tour. Their problems have been compounded by the end of that series in which skipper Shadab Khan sustained a thigh injury to join the duo on the bench for the opening of the Test series.

The pressure would be top notch to survive against New Zealand’s relentless paced bout, and even more so on wicketkeeper-bat Mohammad Rizwan, who will double as substitute skipper, to replicate his Man of the Series performance from Pakistan 1 -0 series loss to England earlier this year. Their heavily compromised batting, Pakistan would rely on its sailors to do the heavy lifting in conditions likely to suit their species. New Zealand could have their work cut out if the Pakistani bowling unit escalated as it did in England at all but the series of tests if the UK’s infamous weather didn’t kick in.

Unlike Pakistan, the home team are well rested and have a squad in top form. While heavy tinkering is unlikely since their last victory in the West Indies Test, the return of Kane Williamsons will require at least one change to their XI. This means a long run for Ross Taylor, who didn’t have the same success against the Caribbean side and therefore faced the ax for Pakistan T20Is. Opener Tom Blundell also didn’t make it past fifty once in the last test assignment, but it’s unlikely he’ll face the consequences.

When: 26-30 December, at 11:00 local time | 22:00 GMT

Where is it: Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui

What to expect: Mount Maunganui hosted only one Test before, with the result that the home team’s inning won against England. Except for thunderstorms on the second day, Sunday, the weather should be clear for the rest of the game.

Team news

New Zeland:Now that Williamson has returned from his paternity leave, Will Young will in all likelihood give way to the returning skipper. The rest of the XI is expected to be the same who wrote the 2-0 win over the Caribbean last month.

Likely XI: Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Daryl Mitchell, Kyle Jamieson, Neil Wagner, Tim Southee, Trent Boult

Pakistan:Handyman Shadab Khan is the latest to join Pakistan’s long list of injuries, further reducing their batting strength and denting the squad’s balance.

Probable XI: Abid Ali, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan (C, Sept.), Faheem Ashraf, Yasir Shah / Sohail Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah

Did you know?

– Tim Southee is four steps away from becoming New Zealand’s third bowler at 300 Test wickets club.

– Ross Taylor will become the New Zealand player with the most appearances and this test will be his 438th appearance for the country in all formats.

© Cricbuzz