DUNEDIN: New Zealand and Pakistan start round two of their disrupted cricket series here Tuesday searching for respectability amid a background of upheaval.
The world’s seventh and sixth ranked sides are two of the sport’s most prominent underachievers, the result of mixing remarkable successes with spectacular collapses.
Both teams enter this three-Test series, following the one-day series in the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, wrestling with internal leadership crises and with parallel strengths and weaknesses.
For the first Test starting here on Tuesday, both sides have strong bowling armouries which will relish attacking batting line ups that have struggled in recent series to consistently control the middle for more than four sessions.
New Zealand are without a coach, entrusting both onfield leadership and off-field planning to captain Daniel Vettori after player criticism forced the resignation last month of coach Andy Moles.
Pakistan meanwhile have seen captain Younus Khan drop out of the tour over dissatisfaction with performances in the one-day series in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.
Reports from the subcontinent also indicate coach Intikhab Alam is under pressure with former captain Javed Miandad being tipped as a likely replacement-in-waiting.
The Tests in New Zealand follow the one-day series in the United Arab Emirates which New Zealand won 2-1, and the Twenty20 series won by Pakistan 2-0.
Although officially a Pakistan home series, it was relocated after New Zealand refused to go to Pakistan over security fears after militants attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore eight months ago.
Even without home track advantage, Pakistan still believe their bowling attack including Umar Gul, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif can make life a misery for New Zealand.
“We have a bowling attack that can get 20 wickets,” said coach Intikhab Alam, while conceding that batting “will be a big challenge.”
Much will depend on stand-in captain Yousuf Mohammad, who boasts a Test average of 54.86 from 82 tests.
In Pakistan’s one chance to acclimatise in New Zealand, a three-day match against an Invitation XI which ended in a draw, Fawad Alam also showed he was in form with a 77 in their one turn at bat while Imran Farhat made 52.
New Zealand’s inconsistent batting reputation has been further hampered by the loss of Jesse Ryder through injury and Jacob Oram retiring from Test play.
Peter Fulton and Grant Elliott have been recalled to fill the batting void but neither has set the world alight previously.
Fulton, a leading batsman at domestic level in New Zealand, has an average of just 24.72 from 12 Test innings while Elliot has been to the crease five times in Tests for a top score of nine.
Selector Mark Greatbatch said the pair had a simple assignment.
“They’re quite solid sorts of players and maybe that’s the glue we’re looking for to solid up our batting unit in between the quite exciting strokeplay we have,” he said.
In last week’s warm-up game opener Tim McIntosh produced an unbeaten 131 and Daniel Flynn posted scores of 49 and 56.
Shane Bond returns from two years in the cricket wilderness to share the new ball with Chris Martin.
Daryl Tuffey, who like Bond has been playing in the renegade Indian Cricket League, is likely to head Iain O’Brien as the third seamer given his record of 24 wickets in six Tests against Pakistan.
Following are the players among two teams’ squads.
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (captain), Tim McIntosh, Martin Guptill, Daniel Flynn, Ross Taylor, Peter Fulton, Grant Elliott, Brendon McCullum, Shane Bond, Iain O’Brien, Daryl Tuffey, Chris Martin, Jeetan Patel.
Pakistan: Mohammad Yousuf (captain) Salman Butt, Khurrum Manzoor, Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik, Fawad Alam, Faisal Iqbal, Kamran Akmal, Danish Kaneria, Saeed Ajmal, Yasir Arafat, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Aamir, Abdur Rauf, Umer Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed.