Pakistan might be regarded as an unpredictable side in world cricket, but in Tests, they have been brilliant of late, which can be justified by their current world ranking (2). They have not lost a Test series for more than two years, their last loss came in August 2014 to Sri Lanka.
With such record, Pakistan are in a confident mood, keen to continue their impressive record in Test cricket as they prepare for a series against New Zealand. The Black Caps host Pakistan for a two-match Test series, with the first one starting on Thursday. The series promises to be interesting, with Pakistan in great form and New Zealand being a huge side at home.
New Zealand cricket fans might have been disappointed with their last series loss against India. Their players will want to play some positive cricket, which they do in New Zealand, and please their fans. They might have not been able to play with much freedom in difficult conditions in India, but at home, skipper Kane Williamson wants his players to play fearless cricket against Pakistan.
"It's important when you come off the back of that Indian tour, that you come here and play with some freedom, and express our skills. When we do that we play our best cricket. That's our challenge going into this big home summer. There's always pressure in international sport, but it's important that we deal with that and play with freedom without trying too hard," ESPN Cricinfo quoted Kane Williamson as saying.
For the Test series, New Zealand have already made some changes. The selectors have dropped senior players like Martin Guptill and Luke Ronchi and given chance to proven domestic cricketers. Tom Latham, who was decent against India, will be expected to provide a solid start for New Zealand, and the captain wants him to take responsibility as well.
"Tom has been around a long time in the New Zealand set up. For a while, he has been considered a leader in this side. He has been performing very well. He's a strong leader within the group, and maybe he'll take on that little bit of extra responsibility - not just with opening the batting, but also to play with that freedom," Williamson said.
But, it is not going to be any easy for New Zealand batsmen in the opening Test, where the pitch is said to be green. Such pitches will assist the bowlers, and with Pakistan possessing some incredible fast bowlers like Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz, the visitors will hope to use the new ball to take early wickets.
If the Pakistan bowlers manage to take early wickets, they will gain immense confidence to trouble New Zealand. They also have spinner Yasir Shah to control things in the middle overs as well. But make no mistake, Pakistan batsmen like Azhar Ali and Babar Azam, despite being in good form will have to show great technique against the moving ball. New Zealand bowlers Tim Southee and Matt Henry will be crucial for New Zealand.
This Test match is expected to be a cracker contest with both teams being a superb bowling unit, and with pitch expected to assist seamers, a close contest between the bat and ball is expected.
Where to watch live
New Zealand vs Pakistan 1st Test is scheduled for a 10:30 local time (9:30 pm GMT, 3am IST, 2:30 Pakistan time) start.
India: No live Tv coverage
New Zealand: Sky Sport Network. Live Streaming: Sky NZ.
Pakistan: TV: PTV Sports. Live Streaming: PTV Sports Live.
US: TV: Willow TV. Live streaming: Willow TV Online.
UK: TV: Sky Sports 3/HD. Live Streaming: Sky Go.