Pakistan vs New Zealand, 3rd Test, Preview: Rare chance for the Kiwis to win an away series

Pakistan are likely to play three seamers in this game.

New Zealand spinner Ajaz Patel
New Zealand.  (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)

Test cricket is witnessing a change in the trend at the moment. The home teams are no more ruling the action with England whitewashing Sri Lanka in the three-match series while Zimbabwe managing to level the two-match tussle against Bangladesh. New Zealand have squandered their 1-0 lead in the ongoing Test series already but still have a chance to bask in the glory of an overseas series victory.

They were rocked by Yasir Shah who scalped 14 wickets in the previous game and will be more cautious while facing him. Moreover, this match will be played in Abu Dhabi where the home side failed to chase 176 in the second innings from a winning position. In the sub-continent, toss becomes extremely vital as the pitch deteriorates significantly in the latter half of the match and Kane Williamson will need some luck in that aspect if the visitors are hoping to turn it around.

Sarfraz Ahmed knows he can’t relax after a stupendous innings victory in Dubai. Returning to the same venue will surely bring back the bitter memories of the collapse which the coach Mickey Arthur termed it as the worst defeat of his tenure with the team. To add to their agony, Mohammad Abbas has been ruled out of this Test with a shoulder injury.

Having said that, what the hosts have with them is the confidence. The way they came back in the must-win second Test match, shows they don’t lack in character and only need to back themselves to go all the way.

Team Combinations

Pakistan

Pakistan have already announced their 12-man squad ahead of the game. Shaheen Afridi is all set to make his Test debut as he will replace Abbas in the line-up. Faheem Ashraf has also made it to the trimmed squad and might replace Bilal Asif depending on the pitch which will be on offer for the decider on the match day. The rest of the players will continue to ply their trade and would be hoping to repeat their last match performances.

Probable XI: Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Bilal Asif/Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Yasir Shah, Shaheen Afridi.

New Zealand

New Zealand would be looking to beef up their batting after a hapless collapse in the first innings in Dubai. The top-order has been doing well so far but the problem lies after that for them. Kane Williamson has looked in good touch and might be itching to get a big score in this crunch game. Colin de Grandhomme might’ve exhausted his chances thanks to a poor show with the bat. Tom Blundell could be in the line to replace who is a better batsman.

Also, Ish Sodhi might make way for the uncapped William Somerville who is the off-spinner and is coming off a great domestic season.

Probable XI: Jeet Raval, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell/Colin de Grandhomme, BJ Watling (wk), Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel, William Somerville/Ish Sodhi.

Focus will be on

Asad Shafiq (Pakistan)

Asad Shafiq is one of the best Test batsmen for Pakistan at the moment. He has the ability to control the innings and mix caution with the aggression superbly. But strangely, Asad has lost it at the moment with the bat. The way he got out in the previous game must’ve worried the team management and should have a word with them. He needs to be confident when they tour South Africa later this month and needs a big knock under his belt. There is no doubt about his ability and should come good in the decider.

Ajaz Patel (New Zealand)

Ajaz Patel will be delighted to come back to Abu Dhabi. He had a dream debut at the venue and will be looking forward to once again run through the Pakistan line-up. Having said that, it was evident that the hosts did a homework of his bowling and negated Ajaz easily in the next game. It will all come down to mindset now and if confident enough, the left-arm spinner can surely repeat his heroics.

Head to Head

Matches – 57 | Pakistan won – 25 | New Zealand won – 11| Draw – 21

Stat Attack

51 – Babar Azam needs only 51 runs to reach the four-figure mark in Test cricket.

Broadcast Details

TV – Sony Ten 2 and Sony Ten 2 HD

Live Streaming – Sony LIV

Match Timings – 11:30 IST; 10:00 local

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