New Zealand will like to climb up the ranks in Tests with a series win over Pakistan     Getty Images
New Zealand will like to climb up the ranks in Tests with a series win over Pakistan Getty Images

The cricketing season is upon us as another befitting battle begins on the 22-yard between New Zealand and Pakistan. The two sides meet for a two-Test series with the series opener being played at Christchurch. Pakistan are coming on the back of a brilliant 2-2 draw against England in England and followed it up with another prolific series triumph over West Indies at UAE. However, this young Pakistani side under the inspirational leadership of Misbah-ul-Haq will have another task in hand when they face off Kane Williamson‘s New Zealand before touring Australia for a three-Test series. With the action just a few hours away, Aditya Sahay brings the key battles between two star-studded sides: Full Cricket Scores, New Zealand vs Pakistan, 1st Test, Christchurch

Mohammad Aamer vs Kane Williamson: Two of the most talented youngsters in the cricket world today, Aamer and Williamson, will be itching to face off when the match kickstarts at Christchurch. While Williamson will be content in coming back to familiar conditions after two back-to-back series defeats against South Africa and India, he will like to contribute with the bat along with captaincy when his side faces Pakistan. Aamer can swing the ball both ways, and if he hits the right areas, he will be able to pose serious threat to New Zealand’s best batsman even on home turf. The wind, swinging conditions and grass on the surface will allow Aamer to come to terms against the same side whose spectators booed him on his return to international cricket after the infamous match-fixing scandal.

Misbah-ul-Haq vs Tim Southee: Another riveting contest awaits between Kiwis’ most experienced bowler, Southee, against Pakistan’s senior pro and seasoned campaigner, Misbah. Southee will be eager to make amends after missing out on the entire 3-Test series against India and will like to deliver in his side’s home series. Southee is Williamson’s go-to-bowler. Not only does he have all tricks up his sleeves but is also a shrewd campaigner. He had a good ODI series against India and will like to carry on in same stead. Nonetheless, he will be up against Misbah, who has all the patience and ingredients to bail his side out of tricky situations. Expect some chin music when the 42-year-old takes guards against Southee. The pacer will have to be ready for long spells to break the concentration of someone like Misbah to get rid of him.

Tom Latham vs Sohail Khan: Latham, was undoubtedly New Zealand’s find on the India tour, was immaculate in whites as well as in coloured clothings. Latham showed great character, applied himself in the middle and moved his feet to good effect against both spinners and seamers. However, he will be up against a quality bowling line-up of Pakistan and be wary of the challenges lying ahead. On a green turf the ball will move in all directions and the overcast conditions will only add to Latham’s concerns when Pakistan bowls. An in-form Latham will have to up for the battle against Sohail who usually chips in with vital breakthroughs.

Younis Khan vs Neil Wagner: Though a player of Misbah or Younis’ calibre cannot be challenged easily, Wagner will have to wage when given the red leather by Williamson and surprise Younis with his awkward bouncers and reverse-swing. Younis is a great player of short ball, but if New Zealand set attacking field for the legend and gets to his skin, they may get the vital scalp of Younis. Wagner will have to step up if he has to get rid of the star player as he is a slow starter in a series but once he gets going, he punished any side.

Younis’ biggest threat is the man himself. He sometimes tries to do too much, as seen in England where he was seen shuffling unnecessarily and throwing his wicket away. Nonetheless, a player like him cannot be kept out of woods for long and he will be expected to fight it out even on a green pitch of Christchurch.

Azhar Ali vs Trent Boult: Both sides have lots of bankable players with few newcomers also expected to get a look-in. Amidst this, one can also expect a tough competition between Azhar and Boult. Boult had a decent tour of India but will be back to his menacing best in favourable conditions. Everyone knows the threat Boult possesses in swinging conditions; he can rip apart Pakistan’s batting-order if he hits the deck hard. Expected to open the pace attack with Southee, Boult will be eyeing the scalp of Azhar. Azhar has been in ominous touch with a good tour of England followed by a triple-century against West Indies. He will have to be sure of his off-stump and resist poking outside off while Boult will try to angle the balls away from his body and invite him for some drives in hope of getting an edge.

The series promises to unearth new challenges for both sides and witness some exciting contest between players from both dens. While Pakistan will be eager to keep their impressive record intact (they have not lost a Test series in New Zealand since 1985), New Zealand will be eager to come back to winning ways after a one-sided series win against Zimbabwe in mid-2016.

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry who is completely into sports and loves writing about cricket in general. He can be followed on Twitter at adisahay7)