A lot has been made of the modern trend of touring cricket teams being deprived of match practice in the build up to test series.
The stats are startling, and it is interesting how the trend seems to be getting more pronounced. And one of the factors behind this is that touring sides turn up as late as possible, play one warm-up game, often with eccentric playing conditions, and get into the real work.
Recent build-ups to New Zealand tours abroad have been famously poor.
In Australia last year, they got shunted out to the back blocks of West Sydney for a game that had to be called off early for its rank pitch. Even tours to England, which normally provide the longest build-ups, have been hampered in recent times due to the demands of the IPL.
This week we had the worst possible build-up for Pakistan in their two test series here. Top level cricket in November, a first in New Zealand, was always going to be a gamble. But Nelson was, in theory, meant to be a safe place for a warm-up game, but it was not to be. A three-day practice match called off without a ball being bowled.
They now go to Christchurch, slightly shaky this week, and its haunted hotel, with no practice out in the middle whatsoever. Even in this current environment that is probably unique. Hagley Oval is no Sharjah.
Cricinfo declared the result quaintly as “abandoned with a toss”. The only build-up Pakistan got was getting used to wintery temperatures, which probably isn’t as trivial as it sounds at first. There is a lot of talk about maximising home conditions, but it would be risky to prepare green-tops; that Pakistan seam attack is pretty handy.
New Zealand’s biggest friend in this series will drift in from the Antarctic, as well as from the ground under Seddon. Pakistan is a seismically active country, but it’s never quite the same when you are away from home.
Despite being another frustrating two test semi-series, the next fortnight is huge for New Zealand after the disappointments of this year. A vastly reshuffled squad, including its fifth spinner in four tests, has the weight of Home & Away expectations on it.
To lose that warm-up game in Nelson was a real shame, given the rarity of such matches. Also, we never got to find out just how good Luke Woodcock is in 2016.