With the T20 and ODI now series behind us, Pakistan host New Zealand for a three-Test series in their adopted desert home of the UAE. The first Test at Abu Dhabi starts on Friday, and is followed up by a second Test in Dubai before returning to Abu Dhabi for the final encounter.
Losing away from home has become the norm for most Test sides in recent years – leaving aside of course Zimbabwe winning the first Test against Bangladesh in Sylhet recently, and England likewise against Sri Lanka in Galle – victories so unusual that they made the cricketing world stand up and take notice. The BlackCaps, noting this trend, have developed a fool-proof method over the last two years of ensuring they don’t lose away from home – by simply not playing Test matches outside of New Zealand!
Their last eleven Tests have been played at home, and they haven’t ventured beyond the Shaky Isles wearing whites since October 2016. One could be tempted to call it “The land of the long white clothes drought”! The BlackCaps form in those home Tests has been great -winning series against England, Bangladesh, West Indies and Pakistan – and has seen them move up to fourth in the world Test rankings.
Pakistan for their part have had very indifferent form in the longest format over the same two-year period – winning just five of fifteen tests played, a run which has seen them drop to seventh in the rankings. Even so, they were too strong for New Zealand’s neighbours Australia, taking out the recent two match series in the UAE 1-0.
Familiarity of conditions will be a factor as it always is in the emirates. Added to New Zealand’s lack of recent experience anywhere overseas, Pakistan’s pedigree in the UAE is of course strong – having won 16 of their 32 Tests played in the country. The last series between the two sides there ended 1-1, and there is every chance that another close series will ensue this time around.
So plenty to keep us entertained and, as always, here is my run down of the potential individual milestones in reach for players of both sides as the series unfolds:
Ross Taylor (New Zealand)
Veteran Taylor has been in great form in the white-ball stuff, although the less said about his calling Mohammad Hafeez for chucking the better. Let’s all hope he returns to letting his bat do the talking – he needs just 139 runs to overtake Stephen Fleming’s 15,319 runs and become his country’s leading run scorer in international cricket, across all formats. That will be a remarkable achievement for a batsman that shows no signs of slowing down.
Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
BlackCaps skipper Williamson currently has 5.338 Test runs to his name, and 106 more will see him past New Zealand legend Martin Crowe into fourth place for his country.
Meanwhile, just 54 runs will see him to 12,000 runs in all formats.
Neil Wagner (New Zealand)
Neil Wagner has become one of new Zealand’s most feared bowlers in Tests of late and he needs just one wicket to bring up 150 for his country.
Trent Boult (New Zealand)
Fresh from taking a hattrick in the first ODI last week, in-form quick Boult has 215 Test wickets in his ledger – four more will see him overtake Chris Cairns’ 218 and move into fifth place for his country. Long time teammate Tim Southee is next on the list at 220.
Yasir Shah (Pakistan)
The Pakistani Lionel Messi has taken 173 Test wickets, which sees him as the eleventh highest wicket taker for Pakistan. He’ll be confident of rocketing up that particular chart – five wickets will see him break into the top-ten, overtaking Sarfraz Nawaz, one more past joint eighth-placed Saeed Ajmal and Shoaib Akhtar, and thirteen will take him into seventh past Mushtaq Ahmed.
Asad Shafiq (Pakistan)
Middle order batsman Shafiq needs just 67 runs to bring up 4,000 career Test runs.