On a blustery Saturday in Dunedin…
Pakistan 2/3. Then 16/6. Then 32/8. Before rallying to be all out for 74.
Is this the worst ever side to tour New Zealand? Are they worse than the West Indies? (they’re not) and what is happening to the world?
Facing Boult, Southee and co swinging it while the wind rips in at 50kph down the harbour from Port Chalmers is as far away from Dubai as you can get.
This New Zealand white ball side is a very good one, and there is an argument that they are the best New Zealand 50 Over team ever assembled. For example, you can build a case they are better than the World Cup 2015 Time of Our Lives squad, and they set the bar high.
And the common theme over since the start of December is how well the new ball attack, and particularly Trent Bout, has owned the opening exchanges.
The Champions Trophy winning side from six months ago are a very decent unit. But they, particularly their top order batsmen, have struggled to acclimatise to bouncy pitches, wind, and sporadic rain.
Pakistan did play one warm up match on their way from Dubai to the Basin in a gale. That was at Saxton Oval 10 days or so against a side made up of players not good enough to play for New Zealand or even be in the squads for their domestic Super Smash teams.
They won that comfortably enough, but it was against a side built around Lauchie Johns (Wellington, keeper, one first class match, Ben Beecroft (Auckland, unknown) , Aniket Parikh (ditto) and Mark Craig.
Pakistan won that match, and three days later found themselves in a gale at The Basin where the result was inevitable. And it is very hard to play yourself into form playing short form cricket.. If you are playing tests it is possible to turn it around over time. As an aside, note that needed a three test series; but that’s a different, if slightly related, topic.
This is not confined to tours of New Zealand. For example there was this build up for New Zealand on their way to facing Australia at the Gabba in 2015
Series like this will carry more importance and relevance once the ICC ODI rankings kick in. And these bilateral contests need it; especially when they are standalone without test matches in the tour.
But to make them more contestable these tours need to have better and longer build-ups; otherwise the home sides will continue to exert undue dominance. There is no Away Goals rule in cricket.