But they are New Zealand. This just doesn’t sound that drastic, right? It never does. They’ll plan, they’ll nurture, they’ll be efficient and optimal with their resources, play their cards right, quietly bide their time and be good again, and we’ll be like, yeah, New Zealand are ok. It’s just a matter of time.
The fast-bowling cupboard is Shaheen Shah Afridi. That’s it. The domestic system is about to be completely ripped apart. Again. Also, Shahid Afridi is the chief selector and he’s saying straight-laced things like: “We had a good discussion on the squad and agreed we needed to strengthen our bowling department to give ourselves the best chance of taking 20 wickets in a match.”
What all of it means for the immediate future of the two Tests these two now play, your guess is as good as anyone’s. Pakistan are hurting, heaving with change. New Zealand are being New Zealand and for added inscrutability haven’t played a Test in yonks. Both are coming off four consecutive losses. At a pinch, let’s say it shouldn’t be boring.
Pakistan LLLLW (last five Tests, most recent first)New Zealand LLLLW
In the spotlight
In Asia, Tim Southee has picked up 48 wickets at an average of 25.47•AFP/Getty Images
Pakistan had a squad. Then the PCB was overhauled. And three new players were added to the party. Now, as far as Babar is concerned, “We will have a discussion with the selectors; then we will decide the final XI”.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Imam-ul-Haq, 2 Abdullah Shafique, 3 Shan Masood, 4 Babar Azam (capt), 5 Saud Shakeel, 6 Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), 7 Agha Salman, 8 Sajid Khan, 9 Abrar Ahmed, 10 Mir Hamza, 11 Naseem Shah
New Zealand are likely to bolster their spin attack with Ajaz Patel coming in. Trent Boult, of course, is not available.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Tom Latham, 2 Will Young, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Devon Conway, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 Daryl Mitchell, 7 Tom Blundell (wk), 8 Michael Bracewell, 9 Tim Southee (capt), 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Ajaz Patel
Pitch and conditions
The Karachi pitch for the recent Test against England was slow and low, but not necessarily uneven in contest for it. It’s most likely, given the swift turnaround time, to behave similarly. But who knows, with a new administration in town, it may liven up a little. Babar expects it to “change each day, day by day things get different”.
Stats and trivia
60.40 > 54.77: Babar’s average against Kane Williamson’s since October 2019 (just before Babar’s breakthrough Test series against Australia). A little more surprisingly, he has played ten Tests more than his counterpart in the same period.
71.22 – Daryl Mitchell’s average this year is the third-highest of any batter with at least five Tests.
“Yes, we could not play the last series the way we wanted to, because we committed mistakes. Now we need to overcome that and try to play good cricket.”
Babar Azam looks back at the 3-0 England defeat
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo