Pakistan vs New Zealand: Four-run loss puts pressure on hosts to keep series alive
Sarfraz Ahmed was second best to Kane Williamson in the UAE. ©AFP

Switching back to Test cricket after more than seven months, Kane Williamson’s New Zealand pipped Pakistan in an epic fourth-day finish in Abu Dhabi last week, which sets up the second Test from November 24 in Dubai as a potential ripper.

Williamson’s fourth-ranked team beat No 7 Pakistan in stunning manner with the 30-year-old debutant Ajaz Patel  snaring five wickets with his left-arm spin on the final day. Patel and Neil Wagner, his partner in a game-winning spell, expect the hosts to come back determined, but it really is anyone’s guess as to which type of Pakistan turns up.

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Sarfraz Ahmed’s side was beaten 0-2 by Sri Lanka in a Test series in the UAE last year, and then struggled to bowl out Australia in Dubai recently. They then hammered the same side in the second Test to win the series 1-0, which underlines how quixotic they can be.

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Sarfraz was left crushed by the four-run loss to New Zealand last week, which Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur termed the worst loss of his career. Spin is expected to have a say again, which puts focus on how Pakistan’s batsmen cope after recent struggles against Nathan Lyon, Ish Sodhi and Patel.

Should New Zealand win the second Test, it will mark their first away series success over Pakistan since Graham Dowling captained the country to a 1-0 win in 1969.

Date: November 24

Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium

Time: 11:30am IST

Weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 31

Team News

Pakistan 

Bilal Asif claimed just one wicket in Abu Dhabi, but it is braindead waft at Patel on the fourth day that may see him lose his place. Pakistan need to bowler their batting after that deplorable collapse, so it could be that the uncapped batsman Saad Ali gets the nod. The other option is to draft in Faheem Ashraf, the seam-bowling allrounder.

Should Pakistan opt to drop one of the fixed batsmen, it could be Asad Shafiq who has scores of 41, 0, 44, 44 and 45 in his last five Test innings.

Probable XI: 1 Imam-ul-Haq, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Haris Sohail, 5 Asad Shafiq, 6 Babar Azam, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt/wk), 8 Faheem Ashraf/Saad Ali, 9 Hasan Ali, 10 Yasir Shah, 11 Mohammad Abbas

New Zealand 

Why change a winning combination? Conditions are expected to be the same as in Abu Dhabi, so backing a successful bowling unit is the way to go.

Probable XI: 1 Jeet Raval, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Ish Sodhi, 9 Ajaz Patel, 10 Ajaz Patel, 11 Trent Boult

Statistics

- Yasir Shah will move past Mushtaq Ahmed if he gets four wickets, making him Pakistan’s third most successful leg spinner in Tests.

- Williamson is seven runs short of surpassing New Zealand icon Martin Crowe’s mark of 5444 Test runs.

- Azhar Ali has now gone 16 Test innings without a hundred – the longest he has ever gone between centuries.

Quotes

“Pakistan batsmen are good players of spin and after that defeat they will go hard on us so we will be ready for that.” – Patel