New Zealand will host Pakistan in the First Test of the two-matches series at Mount Maunganui. The Blackcaps would aim to get all 120 points from this series to upstage India from the second spot in World Test Championship.
Match Timings: Dec 26, 3:30 AM IST
The home summer for New Zealand is going better with every match, and they are now ready for the big WTC assignment against Pakistan. Kiwis defeated West Indies earlier 2-0 and earned the third spot in the table. To qualify for the finals at Lord’s next year, New Zealand have to win both matches against Pakistan. After India’s defeat to Australia in Adelaide, they have tightened its chances for the top two finish.
New Zealand will welcome its captain Kane Williamson in the first Test after missing out the last Test against West Indies due to paternity leave. The skipper scored his career-best Test score in the first Test, and later, Tom Latham led New Zealand to whitewash Windies. The hosts have lost four matches out of nine in Test Championship, and all four defeats came in away-series. Their terrific home-record will scar Pakistan.
The hosts will drop either Tom Blundell or Will Young as Watling is now fully fit and available for this match. Will Young was handed the Test cap during the West Indies series, and management can show faith in him. Latham and Henry Nicholls would have a responsibility along with Williamson in the batting unit. They have a good experience in the name of Ross Taylor. They also have a quality bowling unit with Boult, Southee, Wagner, and Jamieson.
Meanwhile, Pakistan suffered a 2-1 loss to Kiwis in T20format, but a hard-fought victory in the final T20I would build some confidence ahead of the Boxing-Day Test. Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq both have been ruled out of the first Test, and wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan will lead the side for the first time. Shadab Khan also injured his thigh, and he is the latest player who will miss the first Test. Shan Masood and Abid Ali will bat in the opening slot, followed by Azhar Ali at one-down. Haris Sohail will bat at 4 in place of Babar Azam.
Imran Butt from Balochistan has been added to the test squad who scored 191 runs in three Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches this year. Management can pick either Imran Butt or Sarfaraz Ahmed in middle-overs. Pakistan hasn’t won an away Test series for a long time, and recently, they lost to England 1-0, but they fought hard. Azhar Ali finally got his form with a fine century in Southampton, and Mohammed Rizwan also got a half-century in the same match. Newly-appointed captain Rizwan played a fine knock of 89 in the last T20I to seal the game for the visitors.
Pakistan also appeared in the Test warm-up against New Zealand A and won the match by 89 runs. Fawad Alam and Rohail Nazir got a hundred in the 2ndinnings. They were bowled out on 194 in the first innings, and they faced trouble in the 2ndinnings too. The mixed performance in the warm-up is not enough to surprise New Zealand in the Test series. Shaheens have less hope to crack the top two finish in World Test Championship. They have to win all remaining four matches and have to rely on other teams’ results.
Bay Oval is a pure batting track, and the ground hosted only one Test where New Zealand scored 615 against England. Pacers can take plenty of help from the pitch. Later the match progresses, batting would be easier.
Mount Maunganui’s weather is partly cloudy, and there is a slight rain prediction on the final day of the match. The temperature will be around 22 degrees on all five days.
Tom Latham, Will Young, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell/BJ Watling (wk), Daryl Mitchell, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult
Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan (c & wk), Imran Butt/Sarfaraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah
WTC 2019-21 – M: 8, Wickets: 45, Avg: 18.80
WI Series – M: 2, Wickets: 12, Avg: 18.75
WTC 2019-21 – M: 7, Runs: 429, Avg: 39
This home summer -251, 57, 1
WTC 2019-21 – M: 8, Runs: 460, Avg: 38.33
England series – M: 3, Runs: 210, Avg: 52.50
WTC 2019-21 – M: 8, Wickets: 23, Avg: 31.30