This one has come around quickly.
With all the justified anticipation and optimism surrounding next year’s World Cup the three test tour of Pakistan that is not actually to Pakistan has snuck up on us. It is impossible to overstate the challenge that awaits in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
Away series wins in test cricket are a rare thing at the best of times, and we should celebrate the achievement in the Caribbean earlier in the year. But this is at a whole new level
Pakistan in the Arabian Gulf in the new Tour to the West Indies in the 1980s.
The recently completed tour by Australia must have set expectations for what lies ahead. Victories by 221 and 356 runs. Pakistan lost 12 wickets in the first test and 9 in the second.
It was an emphatic a series victory as you could imagine, and it was against Australia. Younus Khan scored twin centuries in the first test, and a double in the second. In fact three players scored twin centuries over the two tests. In the entire history of New Zealand tests this has happened four times.
And to round the batting performance off, a 40 year-old equalled the world record for the fastest 100 in test cricket.
But when Australia batted it was totally different. Newcomer to tests Zulfiqar Babar, almost 36, may look like one of those left arm spinners who struggles to make his way to the crease, but none of the Australians played him with any confidence. Then there was Yasir Shah, a leg spinner. The history of New Zealand batsmen playing leggies in Asia is not a happy one.
Making the challenge even greater for the tourists is the build-up based around some ODIs in Tauranga. The batting in particular is underdone, with injury clouds over Rutherford, Williamson and Taylor which is a reasonable chunk of the top order.
Even putting all that to one side, New Zealand has a history of struggling against Pakistan. The record is just seven wins from 50 tests, and two New Zealand series victories. The last of those was in 1985 when Coney and Chatfield famously batted their way to victory at Carisbrook.
Some other announcements:
- Test matches in Asia are great from a New Zealand viewing point of view. Get home from work, and there’s a whole day to watch. Things are slightly different when it’s coming out of the Arabian Gulf though. Play starts at 7 pm, so that last session which starts at midnight is a big ask; especially on week days.
- There will be no rain-assisted draws.
- A lot of the New Zealand players are taking part in Movember. This is a worthy cause, but aesthetically challenging.
- Danny Morrison.