We’ve been engrossed in One Day cricket over the past couple of weeks. It’s hard not to be all-consumed by our build-up to Cricket World Cup especially when the large countdown clock out our Hamilton hotel window this week told us it’s just over 100 days to go to the first ball is bowled.
But today we head to the United Arab Emirates to face Pakistan, firstly in three Tests. It’s not difficult to be jolted back into Test cricket mode when you reflect on our record against the men in dark green. Two wins from 19 series, and seven Test victories from 50 matches is our worst against any of the top nations.
So you might ask why are they so hard to beat even in our conditions?
They’re unlike a lot of Asian sides, in that seam bowling has been one of their strengths over the years. They have high quality pace bowlers who can perform in both the sub-continent and our conditions.
They’re also a side of match-winners, and when you combine their unorthodox style with a high skill level they’re a pretty formidable outfit. In terms of their batting they have a very experienced top seven who are at home on the low bouncing turning wickets we’ll be playing on in the UAE.
You only need to look at Pakistan’s current series with world no. 2 Australia to see that they can perform well above their sixth ranking.
Mike and BLACKCAPS batting coach Craig McMillan strategise during the NZA v Scotland match earlier this month.
While it might be our first ever Test in the UAE, we know the pitches will have little grass, pace or bounce. They’ll be low and skiddy surfaces that will turn more as the match goes on.
Temperatures will be in the mid-30s with a dry heat that really saps your energy. They don’t call Test cricket a war of attrition for nothing, so the warm-up match against Pakistan A starting on Monday will be critical to acclimatising to those conditions.
We now have a lot of experience both within the players and the management group in terms of dealing with the heat, but we’re not in denial that it’s going to be extreme.
While our team heads to the UAE after three consecutive Test series victories, we know we’re still a young Test side that’s developing by the day.
I’d like to see us develop in two areas on this tour. The first is our ability to take wickets on un-responsive surfaces, and the second is that our batsmen all have a method to cope when the ball starts turning, to both defend and to score.
If we can achieve those two tasks, we’ll go some way to improving our poor record against Pakistan which saw us last win a series against them back in 1985.
We’re looking forward to the challenge ahead.