With the inspired win at the Bay Oval, New Zealand have extended their winning streak and it is currently their joint-longest one in Test Cricket. The last time they registered five consecutive victories in the format was from April 2005 to March 2006. They are also unbeaten at home since March 2017 and are scurrying through to the top of ICC Test Rankings. A triumph in Christchurch will place them at No. 1 which will be the first time they reign the format in their long-winded Test history.
New Zealand will have their eyes eagerly set on the near future as they look to strengthen their chances of qualifying for the all-important ICC World Test Championship Final at Lord’s, this year. Despite Neil Wagner’s absence, the Blackcaps will most likely go with a four-pronged pace attack given the inclusion of Matt Henry into the side. He replaces the indefatigable left-arm seamer, Wagner, who continued to bowl for his country with two fractured toes. He has been advised six weeks of rest. Mitchell Santner, who took the acrobatic catch to dismiss Pakistan’s No. 11 with 26 deliveries left in the game, is likely to retain his spot at Hagley Oval.
New Zealand Probable XI: Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Trent Boult.
Pakistan would have been buoyed by their last-day resistance that almost saved them the Test match. Fawad Alam proved his selection with a gutsy, mettlesome century. The skipper, Mohammad Rizwan, was sensational, too, stroking back-to-back centuries in the Test match to keep his team in the hunt.
Faheem Ashraf’s counter-attacking knock of 91 in the first innings would also have bolstered the team’s confidence and the team management would hope that it symbolizes his coming of age as far as Test Cricket is concerned.
The touring party, though, need a lot more from their top-order players than what they churned up in the first Test. Pakistan are already deflated by the absence of their star player and permanent skipper, Babar Azam. He was said to be recovering well in time for the 2nd Test, but a Pakistan Cricket Board release today announced that Babar has been ruled out of the 2nd Test of the series, as well. This comes as a massive blow for the visitors and the onus is on the likes of Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, and Haris Sohail to deliver if Pakistan are to have a shot of levelling the series and concluding the tour on a high. They are not expected to tinker a whole lot with the side that turned up in Mount Maunganui.
Pakistan Probable XI: Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan (c & wk), Faheem Ashraf, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah.
The track on offer at Hagley Oval is traditionally known to be more conducive for seam bowlers on the first two-three days of a Test match. Batting here, generally, becomes easier as the game progresses. As for the weather, it is expected to be blustery and cloudy throughout the match with scattered showers on the radar for Day 5.