After the conclusion of the T20I series, all eyes are now on the first Test match between Pakistan and New Zealand that starts on Boxing Day. The Men in Green lost the T20I series in the absence of their regular skipper Babar Azam. Shadab Khan was given the opportunity to lead Pakistan in T20Is and his team emerged as the winner in the last match only.
However, the innings that took Pakistan to victory in the 3rd T20I came from the bat of Mohammad Rizwan, who is all set to lead the tourists in the Test series opener. Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq were already ruled out of the first Test match and the latest exclusion from the squad is all-rounder Shadab Khan.
Shadab has picked another injury according to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Central Punjab all-rounder Zafar Gohar has been added to the squad as Shadab's reinforcement.
Test series in New Zealand have been producing one-sided results of late in the favor of the hosts and the Green Shirts are in for an extremely tough fight. India lost badly against New Zealand in the Test series earlier this year and the latest casualty was that of West Indies.
This puts the rather inexperienced Pakistan side under immense pressure of performing up to the mark. Pakistan’s Test team is pretty much struggling at the moment and the pacy wickets of New Zealand are awaiting the Shaheens to put up a fight against the strong Kiwis. If we take a look at the overall squad, Rizwan is all set to become the first Test captain of Pakistan from Peshawar.
Shan Masood and Abid Ali get another chance to prove their mettle after an average tour of England in July. While Masood got 156 in the first Test, he failed to replicate that performance in the next five innings. Abid had a below-average outing in England where he scored just a single half-century at Southampton in the last Test match of the series.
Both of these opening batters of Pakistan need to step up in the upcoming Test series against New Zealand if they want to put the hosts under pressure and put the tourists on top.
Former captain Azhar Ali went through a string of low scores before smacking a fighting century in the last Test of the England series. He was then removed from Test captaincy after that series and now is present in Pakistan’s line-up as a batsman only.
The experience of Azhar is going to be exceedingly valuable for Pakistan and if the hero of the famous 2014 Sharjah Test against Sri Lanka lives up to the expectations, the Men in Green can sneak in with an outside chance of surprising the Kiwis.
The absence of Babar will surely hurt the middle-order of Pakistan as the prolific batsman has been going through a purple patch of late across formats. Meanwhile, the guests will also miss the services of the experienced Asad Shafiq, who has been dropped from this tour due to a lack of form.
This scenario puts Fawad Alam and Haris Sohail in the limelight to perform to the best of their potential on the back of their vast domestic experience. The top scorer of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2019-20 season, Imran Butt has been included in the squad for the first Test match and he’s coming from a fresh stint with Balochistan.
Rizwan picked up form in the last T20I and he was also quite successful with the bat on the tour of England, winning the award of the player of the series for Pakistan.
The match-winning knock of 89 by Rizwan in the last T20I is going to put him in the best shape ahead of the first Test match against the Blackcaps. Faheem Ashraf also had a wonderful T20I series with the ball and he’s expecting to find himself in the playing XI of the first Test.
Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and fast bowling Coach Waqar Younis have been relying on the trio of Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Shah Afridi, and the 17-year old Naseem Shah in the longer format of late.
While Abbas enjoyed significant success in England, Shaheen and Naseem struggled with the old ball big time. As of now, it is unclear whether the management will play the same pace attack or we can expect some changes.
With pacer like Sohail Khan in the squad, we might see one of Shaheen or Naseem getting dropped and Pakistan going in with two experienced and one young fast bowler.
Yasir Shah has been an integral part of Pakistan’s Test side and after his Adelaide ton, he has earned respect from all over the world and he is also one of the most experienced players in the squad.
All in all, it is going to be a tough ask from Pakistan batters facing the likes of Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, and Tim Southee at their backyard on pitches that provide pace and swing all the time.
There are some new pace sensations as well in the squad of New Zealand such as the tall and lanky fast bowler Kyle Jamieson who troubled Virat Kohli and co in his debut series.
The Green Shirts will have to be on top of their game facing this pace attack and we can only anticipate a hard-fought battle between the two sides.