#PakvsNZ is an entirely different and difficult test for the men in green – Is Pakistan prepared for the challenge that awaits?

Published: January 5, 2018
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The New Zealand cricket team is packed with some ferocious and clean hitters of the cricket ball, aided by a talented bowling attack.

Let’s face it, most of us, including me, don’t like getting up early in the morning, but one thing that made me sacrifice my sleep and get out of my warm, cosy bed in winter in the wee hours of the night was cricket, when Pakistan was away on tour to the Trans-Tasman region. Waking up in the middle of the night can be a tad bit difficult but watching Pakistan win is surely worth it.

More accustomed to playing on the dead pitches in the subcontinent, Pakistani cricket team’s trip to New Zealand poses an entirely different test altogether. The pitch and overhead conditions require the ability to lean into stiff wind and not wilt under pressure. If one is not up to the task, it is quite likely that even the best could be made to look like a novice.

Well, for starters, Pakistan’s tour match against New Zealand XI went pretty much according to plan. The batsmen had some time out there in the middle of the field which should help in acclimatising with the conditions of the pitch, while the bowlers had a fair rundown to gauge what lengths to bowl on the pitches they will encounter as the series unfolds.

But then again, such matches can’t be read into too much as they indicate little about what’s going to happen when the actual series begins, which is why although the victory is a good omen heading into the series, one should not get carried away and lose focus of the main goal.

Openers Fakhar Zaman and the returning Azhar Ali made the most of the tour match and notched up centuries, while providing a double century opening stand. It was nice to see the opening duo get some runs under their belt prior this difficult series.

Azhar Ali Photo: @BLACKCAPS/ Twitter

Pakistani openers have been guilty of not negotiating the new ball properly whenever they visit the homeland of the Black Caps. On previous three tours, the visitors have managed just a single century stand in ODIs, while the rest of the scores have all usually been under the 50-run mark. A lethal fast-bowling attack comprising of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and newcomer Lockie Ferguson would make life difficult for the men in green if they don’t turn up with an effective strategy to nullify the threat.

Martin Guptill (R) and Tim Southee of New Zealand celebrate the wicket of Shahid Afridi of Pakistan during the One Day International match between New Zealand and Pakistan at Westpac Stadium on January 31, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Getty

Same goes for the batsmen to follow as a lot will rely on the likes of Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez to provide solidity to the team in the middle order. Facing the Kiwi bowlers on their own turf is not an easy task by any means, especially in the presence of a quality bowling armoury.

Shoaib Malik of Pakistan plays the ball away for four runs during the International Twenty20 match between New Zealand and Pakistan at Seddon Park on January 17, 2016 in Hamilton, New Zealand. Photo: Getty

It is imperative that the Pakistani batsmen have the right frame of mind to cope with the swinging ball during the ODIs in particular, which is more relevant as compared to the bounce, with proper feet movement in order to avoid any sort of debacle. Furthermore, short boundaries will facilitate shot-making, so consequently, a settled-in batsmen can reap the benefits once they have settled down.

Heading into the five-match, 50-over series, it is vital that the batsmen ensure they smoothen out the wrinkles in their techniques rather than radiating discomfort on the field and falling prey to the opposing fast-bowlers.

Bowlers from the subcontinent can get sucked into the bowling short due to the amount of bounce available, but the key lies in sticking with a fuller length and using the bouncer as a surprise weapon.  Pakistan bowlers should be careful of this fact and not play into the hands of the Kiwi batsmen.

Pakistan’s spirits will be boosted by the return of Mohammad Amir who has the ability to extract and put to effective use whatever the pitch is offering. Along with him will be the number one bowler in the world, Hasan Ali, who has been incredible, to say the least, over the past 12 months, and the threatening leg spin bowling of Shadab Khan – Pakistan’s bowling arsenal has enough firepower to dismantle any batting line-up.

Mohammad Amir of Pakistan celebrates the wicket of Henry Nicholls of the Black Caps during the One Day International match between New Zealand and Pakistan at Eden Park on January 31, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo: Getty

The visiting bowlers will be severely tested during the T20 matches as New Zealand currently have a very balanced side; it is hardly surprising that they are the number one side in the world. The team is packed with some ferocious and clean hitters of the cricket ball, aided by a talented bowling attack. Pakistan has got their work cut out if they are to match the Kiwis in the shortest format of the game.

Like both batting and bowling, faring well in the fielding department holds utmost importance. The home side has an extremely well-drilled fielding side, with players setting very high standards and making full use of any opportunity that comes their way. Any glitches from Pakistan in this particular area could prove to be a recipe for disaster as the Black Caps can make them pay heavily for it.

Although Pakistan have a stiff task on their hands, one would hope they will put up a good show under testing circumstances and won’t return home with their tails between their legs.

I’m sure Pakistani fans are excited and looking forward to the upcoming challenge, but hey, don’t forget to set your alarm clocks.

Muneeb Farrukh

Muneeb Farrukh

The author is a freelance sportswriter based in Karachi. He tweets as @Muneeb313_ (twitter.com/Muneeb313_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • PatelPara

    our batting is really bad for NZ pitch and bowlers. I see scores not more than 200 from Pakistan if batting first.Recommend