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New Zealand vs Pakistan 2nd Test Preview: Babar-less visitors gear up for battle of attrition

New Zealand celebrate
New Zealand celebrate

New Zealand climbed to the top of the ICC test rankings for the first time in history after their 101-run win over Pakistan in the first test match. At the same time, Kane Williamson leapfrogged Steve Smith and Virat Kohli to the top of the ICC test batting rankings.

LIVE - New Zealand vs Pakistan 2nd Test

Babar Azam ruled out

Babar Azam suffered a fracture in his thumb just before the T20I series and was ruled out. He was supposed to be fit for the first test match but could not make it.

Pakistan's stand-in captain Mohammad Rizwan said in the pre-match press conference on Saturday that Babar batted very well in the nets. Babar had been batting in the nets for many days now and was cleared to play at Christchurch, but ultimately decided against it.

There is no doubt that it would have been a huge boost for Pakistan if he could have returned to the playing XI. At the same time, they did not want to risk a player of his stature with the South Africa tour of Pakistan lined up.

After the Pakistan management decided to not include Babar Azam in the playing XI, Haris Sohail will get another opportunity.

  Kiwis trump Pakistan in battle of attrition

The first test match between the two teams at the Bay Oval was a brilliant spectacle and one becoming of a Boxing Day test match. Pakistan decided to bowl first after winning the toss and looked on top when the visitors dismissed both the New Zealand openers for just 13.

Kane Williamson also did not look comfortable initially but Pakistan let it drift away after they dropped a couple of catches and did not opt for a review. As it turned out, Williamson and Ross Taylor stabilised the innings and went on to add more than 100 runs.

Henry Nicholls and BJ Watling also chipped in with half-centuries. Kane Williamson scored the 23rd century of his test career, for which he was named the Player of the Match.

Pakistan were bowled out for 239 in their first innings after a rearguard effort from Mohd Rizwan and Faheem Ashraf in the lower middle order. New Zealand declared at 180/5 in the second innings and set Pakistan a target of 373, which seemed improbable. But, with the pitch having got better for batting, Pakistan were still in the game.

However, with Shan Masood and Abid Ali dismissed for nought, Pakistan were pushed back. Azhar Ali and Fawad Alam then showed great application to block out the remaining deliveries on day 4. When Ali was dismissed in the second over of the last day, New Zealand were favourites to finish the match early.

Pakistan though kept fighting with Mohammad Rizwan doing his best to be at the crease. Fawad Alam vindicated his inclusion in the playing XI when he brought up his second century - the first having come in 2009.

With around 5 overs to go, Pakistan lost their last batsman Naseem Shah as New Zealand went on to win by 101 runs. However, given that all the three results were still possible in the last session of day 5, the 1st test turned out to be a cracker of a game.

Matt Henry to replace Wagner

With Neil Wagner unavailable for 6 weeks, having fractured his fourth and fifth toes, Matt Henry has been added to the New Zealand squad. Henry recently picked up 6/53 against Pakistan A and will be the like-for-like replacement for Wagner.

After assessing the conditions at the Hagley Oval, New Zealand might also consider replacing Mitchell Santner with pace-bowling all-rounder Daryl Mitchell.

Here's the probable playing XI of both teams:

New Zealand 
- Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult 

Pakistan - Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan (c & wk), Faheem Ashraf, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah

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