Venue – National Bank Cricket Arena, Larachi
Date: Monday, January 2 – Friday, January 6
The second – and final – Test in this quick series between Pakistan and New Zealand begins on Monday in Karachi. Whichever team wins this one will take the series after the first Test ended in a draw just a couple of days ago. There is no travel to a new city for this second Test, so the players should already have a feel for how the wicket plays.
It is a shame that we didn’t see the end of the first Test play out due to bad light stealing the final seven overs of the match. Both sides were playing to win, with Pakistan having declared at a point where they were forcing New Zealand to score 138 runs in 15 overs to pip them to the post. The tourists – to their credit – came out swinging. They were 61-1 when the light disappeared, using only eight of the 15 overs to get there.
This was the type of match that Test cricket is all about. A tempting target, with players from both sides throwing everything at it, and tactical decision-making that will either be genius or a disaster. Tom Latham was very much in his stride – he was 35 not out – when the light stopped play, with New Zealand looking to turn the screw and condemn Pakistan to their fifth straight Test defeat on home soil.
This has been a historically bad Test cricket season for a nation as cricket-focused as Pakistan. It is not like there is much coming in the coming months to redeem the red ball game either, with Pakistan having just two Tests coming up in the next 11 months as the white ball game takes over. The hosts here certainly don’t have any problem with the depth of their player pool, but with the continued focus on players that can smash the ball around, the intricacies that win Test matches seem to have been lost.
To win this, the Pakistani batters have to be more patient. There is no subtlety to this wicket – assuming the condition is similar – so the batters have to make the New Zealanders work for the wickets they take, instead of giving them up so easily.
Legspinner Ish Sodhi was the leading man for New Zealand in this one. He took six for 86 runs as his bowling put New Zealand in a position to win. New Zealand also has a classy pair of openers – with Tom Latham being especially valuable when they play in Asia given his record there – and if the wicket does have more life, then they can call on a pair of star fast bowlers in Matt Henry and Tim Southee.
This is a weird spot. Neither team is likely to make the World Test Championship final, and while neither is in stunning form, Pakistan is clearly in a deeper hole. The Black Caps would love to win this before England visits to tour early this year. I think they are a value bet at 2/1 as they should have won the first Test.