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Pakistan: down but not out



Azhar_Ali_Pakistan_cricketMere minutes after midnight on November 14th, a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit the South Island of New Zealand about 60km away from the tourist town of Kaikoura. Tremors, however, were felt across the country, even 200km away in Christchurch, the venue for the first Test of Pakistan’s tour of New Zealand. Cricket took a back seat, as it should at times like these. Damages were estimated to be in the billions, along with two tragic casualties.

The teams were safe and sound. The first Test, despite initial uncertainty, was all set to go ahead only for more inclement weather to wash out the first day.

But there was more than enough time for a result, especially given how Pakistan’s only tour game was washed out, leaving them dangerously undercooked on a track as ruthless as a Gordon Ramsey kitchen.  

On Day 2, Test match fanatics across Asia rubbed their eyes, stumbled out of bed, and staggered into the living room for some pre-work cricket in much the same manner that a zombie lurches towards brains. Some of us were still on the toilet. So what better way to start this ungodly early fixture than a quaint, relatively uneventful opening partnership with just enough plays and misses to keep us real fans interested?

Azhar Ali was on 31 when his off stump was castled by an in-swinger from Colin de Grandhomme. The mustachioed debutant demonstrated impressive range, as he took four of his next five wickets – Babar Azam, Younis, Asad Shafiq, and Rahat Ali – with out-swingers. Although he rarely exceeded 130kph, de Garndhomme’s swing and bounce proved too much too early for a team that were playing their first game of the tour.

It didn’t get much better in the second innings for the former holders of the Test mace. After New Zealand’s reply of 200 (which we will get to later) Pakistan was notably more cautious. At drinks on day three, the scoreboard read 25/1 after 21 overs. The change in strategy clearly did not work as Pakistan was all out for 171, a marginal and ultimately inconsequential improvement on their first innings total.  

A target of 105 was all too easy to chase down for the predictably classy Williamson and the long-overdue replacement for Martin Guptill, Jeet Raval.

An eight-wicket win was the final scoreline. It sounds emphatic, doesn’t it? New Zealand must be favorites heading into the second Test at Hamilton. They will wrap up the series 2-0, right?


It’s not that simple. In fact, I’d say the Black Caps are underdogs on a flatter Hamilton surface that will suit Pakistan more than the Christchurch initiation. Pakistan were evidently awful in the first Test but the success of debutants de Grandhomme and Jeet Raval carried the Kiwis and masked their recent batting woes after losing their top three. Ross Taylor has contacted Rahat Ali for batting lessons after accumulating 103 runs in his last 10 Test innings. Even the dogged BJ Watling has pulled a Peter Nevill with 169 runs in his last 9 innings. These blokes cannot bat time. Do you really think they can muster 400-plus?

If Williamson fails, this batting line-up of all-rounders and chronic underperformers is toast. Oh, and I haven’t forgotten about the Tom Latham lovers. He averages below 27 at home and managed scores of 1 and 9 in the first Test.

Raval, however, looked like a proper Test cricketer and opener. Along with captain Kane, he will be the biggest threat to a bowling line-up that is more than adept on flat tracks. Yasir Shah was nothing short of brilliant on the England tour and he could come into play with a more spin-friendly track expected at Hamilton.

Pakistan will work overtime studying the bowling of Colin De Grandhomme, the fluke that was the big difference between the two sides in the first Test. Speaking of big differences, Misbah will be missing in action after being handed a one-Test ban for a minor over-rate offense, though he was not expected to play it anyway due to personal reasons. Pakistan will be hoping that his replacement, whether the specialist batsman Mohammad Rizwan or the all-round option Mohammad Nawaz, can muster some sort of handy contribution at the very least.

Pakistan has had a chance to spend some time out in the middle, their bowling unit is confident, and they are up against seriously flawed opponents. They should be very disappointed if they don’t square the series and will be looking to prove that they are indeed one of the best Test sides in the world.


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Jay Dansinghani is a freelance writer, researcher, and author based in Hong Kong. Jay got into deep...

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