KARACHI, Pakistan – There hasn’t been much time for reflection or adaptation in this series, but New Zealand seemed to have acclimated to the surface of Karachi unnervingly well. In the first ODI, they were given the chance to bat, and they came away with a passable total before realizing they had left Ish Sodhi off the starting lineup as the surface began to change in the cooler, drier evening.
Only 13 overs would be bowled by the seamers because the pitch’s behavior had changed, and New Zealand had brought Sodhi back in. They took advantage of the early seam and swing, but after Mitchell Santner was added for the ninth over, seam would only bowl five more overs during the entire game. Pakistan was skittled out for 182 on a surface that was suddenly gripping, skidding, halting, and spinning. Babar was the only Pakistani batter to appear really at ease throughout the entire innings. When New Zealand reached 182, they had only lost one wicket.
Because it occurred in a World Cup year and was against a team that was vying for the top spot, this was New Zealand’s most remarkable ODI victory since the 2019 World Cup. In this World Cup cycle, New Zealand has a 17 to 6 win-loss record, but several of those victories have come over considerably inferior teams on paper. Their prior ODI victories outside of New Zealand were placed in Dublin, Edinburgh, and Bridgetown, which highlight this fact more sharply. (However, Sydney and Cairns witnessed their failure.)
Karachi is a significant addition to the list in a year when the World Cup will be held over the border, particularly in light of the fact that New Zealand will depart on a chartered aircraft to Hyderabad on Saturday to start a white-ball tour of India. Although spinners in India have been demonstrated to be more expensive than spinners in any other nation in the World Cup cycle except for Australia, they might find that spin doesn’t offer nearly as much pleasure there. Nevertheless, given their all-around expertise, options with the ball should be plentiful.
In a lot of ways, these two sides are comparable. Like New Zealand, Pakistan has a strong recent ODI record that has been hampered by several home games and, for the most part, weaker competition. They have access to a variety of quick fast bowlers, but Lockie Ferguson has shown to be the fastest during these two ODIs. Usama Mir has displayed both strike and containment abilities in a strong start to ODI cricket, while Mohammad Nawaz is more than capable of neutralizing Santner.
This makes keeping Khushdil Shah out of a squad that included a list of probables that appeared to grow daily during the early days of Shahid Afridi’s selectorial stint more perplexing. Since the beginning of last year, only Shadab Khan, an injured middle-order batsman, has a higher strike rate than his 102.46. The consistency of Khushdil’s high-risk strategy is also noteworthy; just once in those six innings has he been removed for less than 19, and his resume includes two cameos that turned games against Australia and the West Indies.
As a painful international home season finally comes to an end, Pakistan will hope they can learn as much from that setback as New Zealand did from theirs.
In contrast, New Zealand might only be getting started. They will turn to India after one more shot on a surface in Karachi that they appear to have become accustomed to, where they may well keep their focus through November.