Match Preview – Pakistan vs New Zealand, New Zealand in Pakistan 2022/23, 2nd Test

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For Pakistan, this game cannot come – and go – soon enough. A home Test season of historically miserable proportions will finally draw to a close for the hosts next week, and regardless of the outcome of the second Test in Karachi, that is precisely how it will be viewed. You might imagine the end of this week will allow Pakistan to take stock, assess what went wrong, perhaps even commission one of those reports that never really end up seeing the light of day.

Most likely, though, with just two Tests to play in the next 11 months, they will instead turn their attention to white-ball cricket. By the time the Test tour of Sri Lanka rolls around, they’ll have found some new kid who smashed it around in the PSL or bowled really fast. Shahid Afridi will include him in that ever-expanding list of probables for the Test squad because six months is too long a time to remember what Pakistan’s Test problems actually were.

For now, however, there is a series to be won, though New Zealand will wonder how they haven’t put that possibility out of Pakistan’s reach just yet. In a slow burner of a first Test, there was just enough time for the visitors to show their superior levels of patience with the bat, and greater potency with the ball. And yet, just a touch too much patience with the bat, and slightly too little potency with the ball as the clock ran out on the visitors as they stood about half an hour away from a well-deserved victory.

On flat surfaces like that one, a solitary poor batting session can determine the course of a game. The first Test was shaped by the very first session, where some horrific decision making from Pakistan’s batters gifted New Zealand four early wickets, ensuring Pakistan would never be able to put up the sort of total to intimidate New Zealand. But with Pakistan promising a spicier surface for the second Test, and plenty of grass left on the strip overnight, there are opportunities for fast bowlers to get into the game, posing selection dilemmas and strategic reconsiderations.

While Pakistan see out their season with this tour, for New Zealand, it is merely an hors d’oeuvre. A short white-ball series in India will be followed by a return home for a visit of England, and while conditions there will bear little resemblance to this, they will want to match England’s away series win in Pakistan with one of their own.

For it, they have come reasonably well equipped. They boast arguably the most reliable opening pair in Test cricket at the moment, with Tom Latham’s exceptional record in Asia of considerable value on these strips. Kane Williamson has roared back into form with a solid middle order to follow. The spinners out-bowled their Pakistani counterparts this week, and while a green-top wicket might have them wishing Trent Boult was available, in Tim Southee and Matt Henry they have significantly greater experience than Pakistan can boast in that department.
Both sides are out of form, and all but out of contention for the World Test Championship final. Pakistan are increasingly desperate to end a home Test drought, while New Zealand look to make it three unbeaten away series against Pakistan in a row. It feels like something of a free hit with the series trophy the enticingly dangled carrot at the end of it.

Form guide

Pakistan: DLLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)New Zealand: DLLLL

In the spotlight

Pakistan have enough on their plate without needing to worry about Abdullah Shafique, whose explosive start to his Test career solved one half of Pakistan’s opening woes. After a breakthrough first season in international cricket, though, the runs have dried up over this winter, with a hundred on an extremely flat track in Rawalpindi followed up by seven innings without a half-century.

The good news is there doesn’t appear to be a glaring technical flaw – he has got starts in nearly each of those innings; only once in the last seven has he faced fewer than 20 deliveries. There have been several instances of losses of concentration, though, which accounted for both of his dismissals in the first Test. He would dance down the track to spin in each innings, only to be stumped in the first and caught at mid-on the second. Pakistan need him to rediscover the grit that marked him out as a standout opener in the first half of his career, and with no Tests scheduled for Pakistan until July, Shafique will want to sign off on a high.

Pakistan did indicate they wanted to prepare a bouncier surface for the second Test, but New Zealand’s spin attack needn’t worry too much. The Karachi surface has always offered spin right from the outset, and while Ish Sodhi and Ajaz Patel are expected to be the main threats, watch out for Michael Bracewell. His four wickets in the first Test were more than respectable, but Pakistan have picked up a habit of gifting inexperienced opposition spinners wickets in clumps over the years.

New Zealand’s own Will Somerville offers the most pertinent example – seven of his 15 Test wickets came on debut against Pakistan. Rehan Ahmed picked up a debut five-for a fortnight earlier, and Will Jacks’ six a couple of Tests before that. Marcus North, Paul Harris and Nathan Hauritz are all members of this unlikely, eclectic list, one Bracewell wouldn’t mind joining to kick off 2023.

Ish Sodhi and New Zealand showed their class in the first Test, with the visitors perhaps a tad unlucky not to come away with a win•AFP/Getty Images

Pitch and conditions

A fresh pitch is expected for the final game, with conditions similar to what they were for the first Test. Pakistan want more bounce. Whether they get it in the weak winter sunshine is another question altogether.

Team news

A more pace-friendly surface should see Pakistan opt for a third seamer, with Hasan Ali and Shahnawaz Dahani both in the squad.

Pakistan (probable): 1 Imam-ul-Haq 2 Abdullah Shafique 3 Shan Masood 4 Babar Azam (capt) 5 Saud Shakeel 6 Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk) 7 Salman Ali Agha 8 Hasan Ali 9 Mohammad Wasim 10 Mir Hamza 11 Abrar Ahmed

New Zealand batting coach Luke Ronchi acknowledged the wicket looked different to the one for the first Test, which may alter their bowling combination, too.

New Zealand (probable): 1 Tom Latham, 2 Devon Conway, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Henry Nicholls, 5 Daryl Mitchell, 6 Tom Blundell (wk), 7 Michael Bracewell 8 Tim Southee, 9 Ish Sodhi 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Ajaz Patel/Matt Henry

Daryl Mitchell is 17 runs from 1000 Test runs, and Abdullah Shafique is 27 away. Should Mitchell get there in the first innings, he would join Devon Conway as the fastest New Zealand player to the mark.

Pakistan last beat New Zealand in a home series in 2002. They have since lost one and drawn the other, both in the UAE.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000

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