What do bears, bats, and squirrels have in common with the New Zealand cricket team? They all go into hibernation over winter of course!
The BlackCaps have not played a single day of competitive cricket in any format since the 3rd of April, a gap of nigh-on seven whole months. In the modern age of packed international schedules, this seems like a strange anomaly, and you’d be forgiven for having forgotten what Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and their cohorts look like!
Above: a bear emerging from hibernation, or is it Kane Williamson?!
But the wait is nearly over for us to reacquaint ourselves with the friendlier type of Antipodean cricketer, as Williamson leads his men out of their long winter hiatus, and into an all-format tour of the UAE to play Pakistan in three T20Is , three ODIs and three Tests.
The T20s are up first, starting on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, with the remaining two games on Friday and Sunday in Dubai.
After the recent Pakistan-Australia series was played out for a giant Tuc-cracker trophy, we await with baited breath to see what comedy cup the sponsors come up with for this series – maybe a giant pavlova in honour of the visitors?!
Whatever form the trophy takes, getting their hands on it will present a daunting challenge for New Zealand, especially allowing for the lack of match practice and the unfamiliar conditions in the Middle East. Pakistan are on a high – the number one ranked T20 side in the world have just wrapped up a crushing 3-0 series win over the Australians, and have only lost four of their last thirty games in the format, stretching back over 2-and-a-half years.
By contrast, New Zealand, ranked fifth, have only won two games out of their last eight and lost a three-match home series against Pakistan 2-1 at home at the beginning of the year. They have also been rocked by the absence through injury of opening batsman Martin Guptill – the leading run-scorer in mens’ T20 international history. His loss will be keenly felt.
A tough ask then for the BlackCaps, but hopefully they put up more of a challenge than Australia did, and we can see some close contests unfold in the UAE.
There are a number of individual statistical milestones within reach for players of both sides over the three-game series:
Shoaib Malik (Pakistan)
Already having made more T20 International appearances than anyone else, Malik has a chance to overtake the absent Guptill and move top of the run-scorers list too. Having scored 2153 runs in T20Is, he leapfrogged another Kiwi, Brendon McCullum, into second in the last of the three recent games against Australia – and would need 119 runs here to take Guptill’s crown.
Mohammad Hafeez (Pakistan)
Teammate Hafeez is currently tenth on that list with 1775 runs – and needs just 18 runs to overtake Australia’s suspended David Warner and move into ninth. 84 runs would see him move ahead of JP Duminy into eighth.
Ross Taylor (New Zealand)
Veteran Taylor has notched up 14,963 runs for New Zealand across all formats, needing just 37 to reach a very impressive 15,000 mark.
In Twenty20 Internationals he has 1415, so 85 more will see him become the third Kiwi to 1500.
Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
The Kiwi skipper for his part has 11,810 runs in all formats for the Blackcaps, which sees him in fifth place amongst his countrymen. Nathan Astle’s 11,866 is just 57 runs away from being usurped.
Tim Southee (New Zealand)
Quick bowler Southee has 62 wickets in Twenty20 Internationals, enough for joint eleventh place all-time, alongside South Africa’s Imran Tahir. A series haul of just six wickets here however could see him rocket up to sixth place – leaving Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi, as well as Ajantha Menthis, Nuwan Kulasekara and Stuart Broad, in his wake!