Pakistan v New Zealand: Shaheen Afridi, Ajaz Patel and other players to watch out for

Waseem Ahmed 08:42 13/11/2018
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Afridi (l) was handed a maiden Test call-up for the series.

With the T20 and ODI series between Pakistan and New Zealand now done and dusted, the two sides will turn their attentions towards the three Tests which get underway on Friday in Abu Dhabi.

While Pakistan took the honours in a 3-0 clean sweep in the T20s, the ODI series was shared between the two sides after persistent rains caused the deciding match at Dubai to be abandoned on Sunday.

As the focus turns towards red-ball cricket, we look at six players to watch out for in the Test series.

PAKISTAN

Azhar Ali

Amid Pakistan’s recent white-ball exertions against Australia and New Zealand, Azhar Ali found the time to announce his international retirement from one-dayers. Now a full-time Test specialist, the right-hander will be eager to perform under the spotlight.

The 67-Test veteran opener was pushed down to the No3 spot in the batting order against Australia after Fakhar Zaman was handed his Test debut. Despite Fakhar being rested for the New Zealand series, Azhar could still find himself in the unfamiliar role with Imam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Hafeez providing the opening options.

It will be interesting to note how he goes in the No3 role once again after registering just a single half-century in the four innings against Australia.

Back in the limelight: Azhar Ali.

Back in the limelight: Azhar Ali.

Mohammad Abbas

With red-ball cricket back on the menu, its time to watch Mohammad Abbas’ genius again. The 28-year-old has had a sensational introduction to Test cricket even at his advanced age and became the quickest fast-bowler from his country to grab 50 Test wickets. 59 wickets in just 10 Test at an astonishing average of less than 16 are terrifying numbers if you are a New Zealand batsman.

Abbas showed he has the skill set to succeed on any kind of surface with his 17-wicket haul in the two Tests against Australia a testament to his prodigious talents on the slower surfaces on offer in the UAE.

Its Mohammad Abbas time once again.

Its Mohammad Abbas time once again.

Shaheen Afridi

New Zealand will already be sick at the sight of the 18-year-old pacer who tormented them endlessly in both the T20s and the ODIs.

The left-armed continued his sensational introduction to international cricket by picking up five wickets in the T20s before following it up with a man-of-the-series display in the ODIs where he grabbed nine wickets.

Now rewarded with a maiden Test call-up, Afridi is already showing why the Pakistan management has been right in fast-tracking his international career.

Afridi was the man-of-the-series in the T20s.

Afridi was the man-of-the-series in the T20s.

NEW ZEALAND

Ajaz Patel

Though he failed to create any substantial impact in the T20 series, left-arm orthodox spinner Ajaz Patel will be determined to prove his worth in the Test series.

The T20 series was his introduction to international cricket and Patel was tidy, if not eye-catching in the two matches he played. Tests will be a completely different beast and the 30-year-old already has plenty of responsibilities on his shoulder.

With Todd Astle withdrawing from the New Zealand squad, Patel will the second spin option for the tourists after Ish Sodhi. Patel had an excellent first-class season back home prior to his international call-up and he could be the surprise package of the series.

Patel could be a handful with the red-ball in UAE conditions.

Patel could be a handful with the red-ball in UAE conditions.

Jeet Raval

The classical Test opener with textbook technique will be vital to New Zealand getting off to a good start in the series. The left-hander will have his hands full with a marauding Abbas to contend with but has all the necessary tools to see out the new-ball for his side.

Seeing off the pacers will only be half-the-job done for Raval given Pakistan’s dangerous spin threat. Good thing then that he has just returned from a training stint in India which he undertook to improve his technique against subcontinent spinners.

The opener has no Test centuries to his name after 11 matches and Pakistan series will be the perfect time for him to open his account in that regard.

Raval can be a rock at the top for New Zealand.

Raval can be a rock at the top for New Zealand.

Neil Wagner

Red-ball cricket means it is time to welcome back New Zealand Test specialist Neil Wagner.

The pacer is a workhorse and embodies the spirit of a warrior every time he is on the cricket pitch. The left-armed pacer has been a tireless servant to New Zealand in the Test arena and has formed an excellent relationship with Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

No matter what the surface, Wagner will extract something out of it through sheer intensity and tenacity. On the slower pitches in the UAE, Wagner’s relentless energy will be needed by the tourists.

Wagner is New Zealand's tireless workhorse for every condition.

Wagner is New Zealand’s tireless workhorse for every condition.

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