Five ways New Zealand can counter the Pakistan threat
Pakistan may be far ahead in the rankings but a few tweaks should stand New Zealand in good shape.
Pakistan are the kind of opposition teams wish to face after a tiring tour of India in the sub-continent, especially at home. But New Zealand will not actually be overjoyed at the prospect of facing this particular Pakistani Test team. They have had a spectacular run in Tests, climbing to the no.1 spot at one stage before settling down at no.2.
Their last series loss dates back to August 2014. They have found a world class spinner, a superb opening bowler has made a comeback after a ban and a stable opener has provided much-needed stability at the top of the order. They are also blessed with a vastly experienced middle order and a dynamic wicket keeper.
New Zealand are in a hole at the moment after finding it tough to negotiate Indian spinners and even failing to figure out their best XI. The injury to Mitchell Santner means they are without a spinner capable of bowling tight lines. A proven domestic performer, Todd Astle, has come in but whether he can replicate his domestic form in International Cricket remains to be seen.
They will find Pakistan challenging, especially since they boast of a pretty good pack of pace bowlers. What works in their favour is home conditions, but it remains to be seen how well they exploit that against a team brimming with confidence.
Let us take a glance at five ways the Kiwis can counter Pakistan in the first Test at Christchurch starting on 17th November.
#1 Strengthen the middle order
New Zealand's biggest weakness in the tour to India was their weak middle order, made even weaker by the form of Ross Taylor. Taylor is a senior member of the team and needs to be the anchor in a fairly young middle order.
Watling and Neesham provide some stability but need to be more consistent if they are to keep the Pakistani bowlers at bay. By dropping Ronchi selectors have made a blunder of ignoring a good batsman, who played some tough innings in India. Why the axe fell on him will remain a mystery, but, for now, the Kiwis will have to do without him and the injured Santner.
While Williamson is the obvious strength in the top half of the middle order, the lower middle order is woefully short of contributions in recent times. If Taylor, Nicholls, Watling and Neesham can turn that around, Pakistan will be challenged.