Having comfortably seen off West Indies in the UAE last month, albeit with the one blotch in Sharjah, Pakistan will head to New Zealand full of confidence.
After all, they enter the series as the second best Test side in the world and having gone without a Test series defeat since losing 2-0 in Sri Lanka way back in August 2014.
Seven series have followed that loss, Pakistan securing five wins and two drawn series in that time.
History is also on their side as you have to go all the way back to the 1984/85 series in New Zealand for the last time the Black Caps took series honours over Pakistan.
And, as you can see here, there are signs to suggest that record won’t change any time soon.
INEXPERIENCED NEW ZEALAND
When Martin Guptill was axed from the squad for the Test series this week [more on that to come], the news obviously made headlines.
After all in terms of SEO, Guptill’s name draws far greater Google search results than Colin de Grandhomme.
But that also highlights the inexperience that will run through this side when they face Pakistan, De Grandhomme, and Jeet Raval looking like making their debuts and Todd Astle adding only a second cap to his first back in November 2012.
Guptill is one of a number of big names missing; Luke Ronchi also given the boot, while Doug Bracewell, Jeetan Patel, Ish Sodhi and the injured Mitchell Satner are all absent for one reason or another.
It is a mass overhaul from the defeated side in India and against a Pakistan side whose gears are starting to click smoothly into place in all departments they will be up against it.
A captain seemingly incapable of defeat; check.
A stable opening partnership with an exciting second option to further strengthen one of the best middle orders in the world; check.
An aggressive wicket-keeper batsman and natural leader; check.
A spinning all-rounder and long tail; check.
The world’s most exciting, potent leg-spinner; check.
A seam attack full of pace, variation, genuine and reverse swing and depth; check.
Oh, and a new coach instilling a winning mentality and dedication to fitness and fielding like no other in Pakistan’s long cricketing history; check.
It seems odd to be saying Pakistan have the edge when it comes to the opening batting pair but they really do.
Azhar Ali has proven a more than capable partner for Sami Aslam thus far, ending a painful search for a reliable opening partnership.
Not only that, Sharjeel Khan has been called-up as another option and genuine opener that could see Azhar move down to three and further strengthen an already bursting middle-order.
Sharjeel has the potential to excite and invigorate this Pakistan team if given a sustained go at the top of the order but patience must be preached if he is to pay off such is the nature of his aggressive tendencies.
Compare that with New Zealand, who will likely hand a debut of their own to Raval in the place of the hugely experienced and immensely talented Guptill, and it seems less a risk for Pakistan potentially tinkering with their own order that plays into the hands of their players’ natural talents.
Congrats to @SharjeelLeo14 on making Test tour to NZ.. awesome news— Dean Jones (@ProfDeano) October 31, 2016
If Sharjeel does play then expect Azhar to move to three, Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq to remain at four and five and Asad Shafiq enter at six.
Add in Sarfraz Ahmed at seven followed by the more than capable Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah and that’s a long tail.
If he doesn’t, Shafiq will stay at three – a position he has proven more than capable – and there is the option to play either Babar Azam or Mohammad Nawaz, meaning Pakistan still bat very deep.
On the more seamer-friendly conditions of Christchurch and Hamilton, the added batting options and ability to play three seamers and Yasir or those four and Nawaz, the side is more than capable of taking 20 wickets and batting the hosts out of Tests.
The last time NZ claimed series win over PAK (84/85) @MudassarNazar56 opened both batting and bowling in 1st Test, only one they didn't lose— Barny Read (@BarnabyRead) November 10, 2016
And one reason why they can’t…
This does have a refreshing feel about the way the team plays but that perennial ability of Pakistan to snatch defeat from the clutches of victory just doesn’t seem to go away.
They switched off in Sharjah to fall prey to West Indies when a whitewash should have been a formality and throughout the series they showed inconsistencies of old.
Hopefully, for Pakistan’s sake, they will be more focussed in New Zealand.
If not, they risk not taking an incredible opportunity to prove they are the best in the world and here to stay at the top of the world rankings for some time.
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