After a thrilling Last-hour win for New Zealand in Mount Maunganui, they go into the second and final Test provisionally as the No. 1 ranked Test side in the world. All they need is a series victory against Pakistan (meaning a draw in Christchurch would be enough) to be officially declared the top Test side by the ICC, who only update the rankings at the end of each series.
But with another 60 points making a strong case for a top-two finish in the World Test Championship, a win is all that New Zealand would want against Pakistan, even though the hosts will be without their all-weather man in Neil Wagner. The left-arm pacer was ruled out with a fractured toe; that he even got through the first Test was an act of courage.
Pakistan will be without Babar Azam again, who is back to training but hasn’t fully recovered from his thumb fracture. Two days out from the Test match, he had a “full fledged” training session but felt pain in the thumb, prompting the team management to make that call. It means Mohammad Rizwan will again captain New Zealand at the Hagley Oval.
Despite a poor showing by openers Abid Ali and Shan Masood, the visitors will fancy their chances after Fawad Alam showed them the way in a fifth-day masterclass, which saw the veteran rack up a Test hundred after 11 years. Pakistan would want to take that batting blueprint forward, especially in Christchurch where they were blown away for 133 on the first day in 2016.
What: New Zealand v Pakistan, 2nd Test
When: Starting Sunday (January 3, 2021)
What to expect: A pitch much more lively than what we had for the first Test in Bay Oval. Pakistan had lost the Test match in Christchurch in 2016 but not without impressing with a good bowling performance. It’s a totally different pace attack this time, whose inexperience was on show at times in the first Test, but a more helpful pitch should bring them into the game
Even though the teams were forced to train indoors on Saturday, rains aren’t expected on any of the five days in Christchurch.
New Zealand: Matt Henry has been called into the squad as a replacement for Wagner, and should slot into the Playing XI. The team management will again have to take a pick between Mitchell Santner and Daryl Mitchell. Given the conditions here, the latter is likely to get the nod.
Probable XI: Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Kane Williamson(c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling(w), Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Trent Boult
Pakistan: With Babar unavailable, the only possible change the visitors can consider is handing a debut to Imran Butt, the 24-year-old from Balochistan who scored 191 runs from three first-class games in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy before joining the team. He was also the highest run-scorer in the competition last year.
Probable XI: Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan(w/c), Faheem Ashraf, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah
Did you know
- If New Zealand win or draw the Test, it will be their eighth straight home series win on the trot
- Kane Williamson will start the year as the No. 1 ranked Test batsman
What they said
“These things around it, the ranking things, just sort of change every day. They’re perhaps opportunities to reflect, but knowing full well that every day’s different, every day brings its own challenges, and it’s important to keep your focus in those areas.” – Kane Williamson
“We lost the (first) match, but we are still in the series. We need to improve a bit in the batting department, our bowling is superb, our energy is superb.” – Mohammad Rizwan