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Black Caps looking for change in fortunes

By Jake Beleski

The Black Caps will be hoping their return to familiar conditions will lead to a reversal in form when the test series with Pakistan starts next Thursday.

The recent tour to India reinforced how difficult subcontinent tours can be for visiting teams, with a miserable 3-0 test series whitewash followed by a more evenly-contested one day series, which ended 3-2 in favour of the hosts.

If New Zealand were looking for signs that the tour was going to be tough, they only had to look at the recurring theme on the morning of each match.

Skipper Kane Williamson lost seven of the eight tosses, and also called wrong in the warm-up match for good measure.

The outcome of any sporting fixture should not hinge on the flip of a coin, but for a struggling side playing against one of the world’s top batsman in a hostile environment, it definitely plays a part.

Virat Kohli was kept in check for the first two test matches, but blasted his way into form with a double century in the third.

That was important for India, but NZ were undone, as usual, by their inability to play high-quality spin bowling on dust-bowl pitches.

Combining that with their senior batsmen contributing minimal runs at the top of the order, something had to change, and the selectors have wielded the axe in the hope of sparking new life into the team.

Martin Guptill has looked woefully out of sorts for some time, and has been dropped for the upcoming series.

Doug Bracewell, Ish Sodhi, Luke Ronchi and Jeetan Patel also miss out, while Mitchell Santner will play no part due to a broken wrist.

Their replacements, debutant Jeet Raval, Todd Astle and Colin de Grandhomme, have a prime opportunity to cement a spot in this unstable NZ side.

A two-test series at home is a much more comfortable baptism of fire compared to an away series against India, so the timing is smart.

Pakistan will present a different, but testing challenge in comparison to what was faced in India.

Their bowling attack is seam-orientated, and will enjoy NZ conditions, while they also have a pair of world-class batsmen whose skills continue to defy their ages.

Captain Misbah-ul-Haq (42) and Younis Khan (38) will be the key to the series, and removing both early will be NZ’s main priority.

Both sides will back themselves to take 20 wickets in a match, so this series will come down to which batting line-up can produce the goods.

Pakistan’s old-timers, or NZ’s young guns? Toss of a coin.

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