The much-awaited Test series between New Zealand and Pakistan stars from Saturday (December 26) at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.
The home team would be looking to carry the similar form as they showed in the recently concluded T20I series, which they won 2-1. More importantly, the red-ball battle against Pakistan is extremely crucial for Kane Williamson-led side to cement their place in the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) final.
On the other hand, Pakistan would enter the first Test with some confidence after avoiding the clean sweep by defeating Black Caps in the third T20I.
Pitch and weather report:
The track at Bay Oval generally assists seamers and fans may expect bowlers to repeat the similar story. Thunderstorms are expected to impact the game, but only on Sunday, i.e. the match’s second day.
Head to head record:
Matches played: 58 | New Zealand: 12 | Pakistan: 25 | Draw: 21 | Tied: 0
Since Williamson is back from his paternity leave, he would replace Will Young in the two-match series opener. The rest of XI is expected to stay the same that defeated West Indies 2-0.
NZ XI: Kane Williamson (c), Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Daryl Mitchell, Kyle Jamieson, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Tim Southee.
After Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq, Shadab Khan is the latest injured player in the Pakistan camp. In the absence of Babar, Mohammad Rizwan will captain the side. There could be toss-up between Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah.
PAK XI: Mohammad Rizwan (c, wk), Abid Ali, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Faheem Ashraf, Yasir Shah/Sohail Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi.