New Zealand will aim to continue their winning streak in the second and final Test against Pakistan, with Kane Williamson's side having the chance to make history in Christchurch. (More Cricket News)
The home team won the opening game by 101 runs late on the fifth day in Mount Maunganui, finally seeing off spirited resistance from Pakistan's tail with 4.3 overs remaining.
Victory means the Black Caps have now won five Tests on the spin – they have never previously managed six in a row in the format.
There will be at least one change to their team for their first outing in 2021, Neil Wagner ruled out with a broken toe.
The left-arm paceman played on through the pain in the first Test, earning praise from Williamson. However, he is expected to be sidelined for six weeks, leading to New Zealand calling up Matt Henry.
As for Pakistan, they are set to be boosted by the return of captain Babar Azam, who missed the previous game – as well as the Twenty20 series that preceded the Test action – with a broken thumb.
Without their talismanic captain, the tourists were fragile at the top of the order. They fought back well from 52-5 to post 239 in their first innings, while nearly saved the game despite slipping to 37-3 second time around.
They will be up against it, though; New Zealand have lost only one of their previous seven Tests played at Hagley Oval, a seven-wicket defeat to Australia in February 2016.
ON TOP OF THE WORLD
Williamson had a fabulous 2020 in Test cricket, despite the international schedule being badly hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The right-hander had the highest average (83) in the format across the previous calendar year out of those players to have had at least four innings, with his knock of 129 in the first Test – combined with Steve Smith's struggles for runs against India – moving him back to the top of the ICC world rankings for Test batsmen.
A career-best score of 251 against West Indies substantially helped his cause. That was his only innings in the series too, as he missed the second Test due to the birth of his first child.
NEW NUMBER 1— ICC (@ICC) December 31, 2020
Kane Williamson overtakes Steve Smith and Virat Kohli to become the No.1 in the @MRFWorldwide ICC Test Rankings for batting
Latest rankings https://t.co/OMjjVx5Mgfpic.twitter.com/jy5o2qgoKn
PAKISTAN SET FOR BABAR BOOST
The tourists felt the absence of their captain in the series opener and still almost fought their way to a draw.
Mohammad Rizwan, who was the skipper in the first Test, said Babar was on track for a return, but a decision would have to wait until Sunday.
"He is fine now. He wants to hit some more balls in the nets and we'll decide [on Sunday]," he said, via the New Zealand Herald. "He's a legend and wants to hit some more balls because [on Friday] he batted very well. If he plays, we bat around him. He has a great impact on our team."
Babar, 26, averages 45.44 in 29 Tests for Pakistan, who are aiming to level the series.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- New Zealand will be looking to win a third consecutive multi-game bilateral Test series against Pakistan.
- Pakistan are winless in their past 10 Tests outside their own country (D2, L8). However, their last such victory did come against New Zealand, by an innings and 16 runs (November 2018 in Dubai).
- Tom Latham has scored 579 Test runs at Hagley Oval, 214 more than any other player at the venue and his second most at any ground in the format (696 at Basin Reserve).
- Ross Taylor is 13 away from becoming just the fifth player to score 1,000 runs in Tests between New Zealand and Pakistan. He would be only the second Kiwi to achieve the feat (after Williamson).
- Tim Southee has a bowling average of 19.9 in Tests at Hagley Oval, his best at any home venue. He has picked up five or more wickets in six of his seven appearances at the venue.