After coming off from a defeat in the three-match T20I series, Pakistan will want to win the two-match Test series against New Zealand to end the tour in even-steven. The first match of the series is scheduled to begin on December 26 at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.
Pakistan will be missing their regular captain Babar Azam, who injured himself in the practice session ahead of the T20I series. Shadab Khan, who was expected to lead the team in Azam’s absence, has also sustained an injury. Thus, Mohammad Rizwan has been handed over the captaincy.
Playing without two significant batting contributors- Babar Azam and Shabad Khan- is a huge setback for the Pakistan team. It will be interesting to see how they will tackle the daunting pace bowling attack of New Zealand.
Here, let’s take a look at how Pakistan’s Playing XI might shape in for the first Test:
Shan Masood had a forgetful last Test tour of England. He came out with 0, 1, 4 and 18 figures in the four innings. But before that series, he had scored consecutive three-Test century-two against Sri Lanka and one against Bangladesh.
Masood will have to move on from the last Test tour scare and need to look to play more skilful innings against South Africa, who have a strong bowling line up this year.
Abid Ali, who scored a century in his Test debut against Sri Lanka, had managed to score only a half-century against England at their home. The tour of New Zealand will only be his second overseas tour but he has the potential and temperament to play against Kiwi bowlers.
Azhar Ali has stepped down from captaincy after the poor outing of the Pakistan team in the England tour. It was deemed that the captaincy burden was harming his batting performance.
It is also an important series for the 35-year-old considering he is ageing and has been not at his best in the last tours.
The 35-year-old, who has been recalled in the Test side, scored a century in the warm-up against New Zealand A.
He had also toured New Zealand in 2009 but was inexperienced in conditions there and thus, has a poor outing. But this time, he looks more aware of conditions considering his form in Australia.
The wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan has been given the captaincy of the Pakistan team in the absence of Babar Azam. In 2016, Rizwan played his maiden Test against New Zealand but he could not prove his mettle with the bat.
But in the last tour against England, when the top-order struggled to get runs, Rizwan gave some stability to the team. He scored back to back two half-centuries. Pakistan will be hoping that the 28-year-old would be able to play more sensible knocks.
Haris Sohail had scored a century against New Zealand in 2018 when Pakistan hosted them in Abu Dhabi. But this year, he will be playing in Kiwi’s land. He is going to play a crucial role for the Green Army in this tour who are playing without two batting mainstays.
Faheem Ashraf has been recalled to the Test side after last playing the Test series in January 2019 against South Africa.
He featured in the T20I series against New Zealand in which he notched three wickets in the last match to guide the side to victory.
Apart from bowling, he is also a good contributor with the bat.
The leg spinner is a vital cog for Pakistan. He notched five wickets in the practice match against New Zealand ahead of the series. He is currently looking in good form and is likely going to be the leading wicket-taker for them in challenging conditions for New Zealand.
In the last Test series against New Zealand, Mohammad Abbas picked only two wickets and it was one of his poor Test series. Albeit, he is, undoubtedly, going to be in the playing XI considering his performance in the warm-up games. He scalped five wickets for Shaheens in the warm-up game against New Zealand A.
The 20-year-old Shaheen Afridi has troubled batsman with his pace. He will be playing the second Test series against New Zealand but it will be the first series for him at their home. This series will be the test for youngsters calibre against world-class batsmen.
With Naseem Shah being dropped, Sohail Khan is likely to be given chance in the playing XI. He has played only in nine Tests while has picked 27 wickets.
This also can be the last Test series for the 36-year-old.