The hosts certainly start as favourites going into the encounter with most of their players showing excellent recent form. They have a potent bowling attack with Mohammad Abbas, who broke Australia's back with a ten-wicket haul at the same venue last month, leading the pace department. He recently took a 12-for in a first-class game for his side Sui Northern and will have his tail up coming into the first Test.
He will get ample support in the form of Hasan Ali, all-rounder Faheem Ashraf and the uncapped Shaheen Shah Afridi. Afridi's call-up in the Test set-up comes as no surprise considering his continuous rise in the shorter formats. It will be interesting to see how the youngster goes in the five-day format though.
Apart from the formidable pace unit, Pakistan also have some excellent spinners in the experienced Yasir Shah, Bilal Asif and the ever-reliable Mohammad Hafeez. Asif gave a good account of himself in his debut series against Australia where he picked up nine wickets in the two Tests including a 6/36 in his first game in Dubai. Pakistan will be hoping for a similar show from him come the New Zealand Tests as well.
"Abbas has been bowling superbly while Yasir didn't look as great as we had expected, but in this series I expect more from Yasir," said Sarfraz ahead of the first Test.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson also admitted the threats from Abbas and Yasir.
"They both are outstanding bowlers and bowling well for a long time. Abbas, ever since he entered international cricket, is bowling superbly around the world," he said.
On the batting front, Hafeez, Azhar Ali and Babar Azam will lead the way for Pakistan while Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail and captain Sarfraz Ahmed will form the crux of the middle-order. The hosts have also included uncapped Saad Ali, a top-order batsman in their squad. Saad boasts a first-class average of 46.81 and recently scored a 144 against New Zealand A.
Pakistan have had a good run in recent times in Tests. They beat Ireland their maiden Test, then shared a two-match Test series in England 1-1, and more recently won the two-Test series against Australia in the UAE 1-0.
Having said that, New Zealand showed plenty of promise in the recently concluded T20I and ODI series and will hope to bring out their A game against the hosts. They have a good record in the UAE having levelled the only Test series they played here back in 2014 1-1. Seven of the players who were a part of the squad back then are still present this time around and will be eager to giving Pakistan a run for their money.
Williamson will be incharge of leading the side and will undoubtedly be the fulcrum of the batting unit. Apart from him, Tom Latham, Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls will be the key components in the batting department.
"Obviously, coming into Pakistan's home series there is a lot of work to do in terms of the overseas sides adapting to the conditions as best as they can," said Williamson.
"I think it's important that we adapt with this inexperienced side that we have come here with and look to learn as we can and do that quickly because we want to be playing our best cricket under these conditions."
Tim Southee and Trent Boult will lead a strong bowling attack which also has Matt Henry and Neil Wagner. The spin department has a nice mix in the form of leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, left-arm spinner, Ajaz Patel, and off-spinner William Somerville. Spin is expected to play a huge role from the outset and how the New Zealand batsmen handle that will go a long way in deciding which the series goes.
The conditions in Abu Dhabi are expected to be humid and while there is rain predicted it should not have much of an impact on the game.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Bilal Asif, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hafeez, Saad Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Yasir Shah
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Jeet Raval, Ish Sodhi, William Somerville, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling (wk)
Babar AzamKane WilliamsonMohammad Abbasnew zealandpakistanpakistan vs new zealand 2018Sarfraz AhmedTim SoutheeTrent Boult
First Published: November 15, 2018, 3:22 PM IST