With Summer fast approaching Down Under, the floppy hats in the New Zealand dugout will be out sooner than expected as they will battle out much more than just high mercury levels on their tour to the UAE.
Pakistan have clearly marked their territory at their “home” and have proved to be the masters of their domain. In the recently concluded T20I series against the visiting Australians, they not only handed their counterparts a thumping whitewash but also proved why they are likely to hold onto the No. 1 ranking in the shortest format of the game for a while.
While it’s in the past, they now look set to host the fifth-ranked Kiwis for a full tour starting with three T20Is followed by as many ODIs and Tests. With the Blackcaps returning to International cricket after a gap of seven months, some of their cricketers have spent time playing franchise cricket in various leagues around the world.
The Kiwis are touring without their batting mainstay Martin Guptill , who has been recovering from a left calf strain. Trent Boult has been rested in order to maintain his workload before the ODI and Test series where he is expected to play a pivotal role. Also missing out is their first-choice spinner Mitchell Santner, who is recovering from a serious knee injury.
The bowling lineup
The reinforcements head coach Gary Stead has brought in look set for their first hit out in the UAE. The bowling firepower in their camp looks experienced and boasts a unique look. Seth Rance and Ajaz Patel, into their 30s, have immense domestic experience but little when it comes to bowling on pitches in the UAE. Patel recently turned out for New Zealand A on their tour of the UAE and picked up 4 for 57 in 8.5 overs across three T20s against Pakistan A. He averaged an impressive 14.5 with an economy rate of 6.45 and looks set to partner Ish Sodhi.
The pace contingent consists of all-format incumbent Tim Southee, express fast bowlers Adam Milne and Lockie Ferguson in addition to right-arm fast-medium pacer Seth Rance , known for his accuracy.
In a recent clip, Ish Sodhi turned a rapper in a studio that did his teammates in for a good chuckle. Whether he makes the Pakistani batsmen dance to his tunes remains to be seen, he will surely look to pick wickets and fire the ball into the pitch at greater speeds while looking to exploit the turn on offer, something Adam Zampa failed to do last week.
The batting lineup
While Colin Munro walks into his role of an opener, wicket-keeper batsman Glenn Phillips has done well to earn his spot at the top. During his stint with the Jamaica Tallawahs in CPL 2018, he amassed 457 in eleven outings at an impressive average of 41.54 finishing as the second highest run-scorer. With two fifties against Pakistan A this month, he is a sure starter but remains to be seen if he takes the gloves behind the stumps or if that duty is handed out to Tim Seifert, who gives the side an extra batting option down the order.
Kane Williamson , Ross Taylor and Colin de Grandhomme will slot into the middle order whereas the inclusion of Mark Chapman or Corey Anderson will depend on the conditions and the team combination, should they demand an extra batsman or an all-rounder.
With the team boasting a competitive look, they will be wary of the spin threat issued by Imad Wasim, whose arm balls were tough to get away with for Australia. Shadab Khan in the middle overs checked the run flow, created pressure and bought his wickets at a miserly economy. Scores in excess of 130-140 could be deemed par but in the end, it all comes down to how well New Zealand adapts to the conditions.
If their subcontinental sojourn to India last year was anything to go by, it suggested that they do adapt quickly and are the toughest competitors away from home. If New Zealand live up to their expectations, it could prove to be a cracker of a duel between the two sides.