Test cricket is back, but after their opening day, the Black Caps will be wishing it wasn't.
Following seven months without pulling on the whites, the Black Caps were summarily rolled for a measly 153 on their return, as Pakistan's bowling attack ripped them apart in the United Arab Emirates.
In what was the lowest first innings total ever recorded on the Abu Dhabi wicket, only skipper Kane Williamson looked like he hadn't missed a beat, crafting a classy 63. He found negligible support, with Henry Nicholls (28) the only other Black Cap to pass 13.
There was only a short period of positivity for the Black Caps, and it came when Williamson and Nicholls had given the visitors a platform for respectability. Linking up with their side in rough shape at 39-3, the pair added 72, and looked reasonably untroubled doing so.
Williamson in particular looked at ease as he dug his side out of their early hole. Timing the ball superbly, Williamson used the depth of his crease and some stellar footwork to reach 50 for the 45th time in tests, negating the early danger of Pakistan's spinners.
However, after seeing off the best of what Pakistan had to offer, he fell to one of the worst deliveries of the day; trying to pull a short ball from Hasan Ali, and being strangled down the legside.
It was a cruel way to go, and the dismissal of Colin de Grandhomme the following ball — trapped lbw — left New Zealand in a serious hole, one which will take a phenomenal turnaround to win the test.
Only once has a team lost while batting first in Abu Dhabi, but after Pakistan reached 59-2 at stumps, it will take a special bowling effort, followed by a much improved batting effort, for that stat to hold true come the end of this test.
After all, this Pakistan side has reached new heights in recent times, including a dominant home series win over Australia last month. Their main strike bowler — Mohammad Abbas — owns the best bowling average of anyone to have taken 50 test wickets since 1900, and he showed why.
Abbas is a curious bowler — he rarely gets above 130km/h but uses his considerable height and incessant line and length to frustrate opposing batsmen, as seen in his incredibly stingy figures of 12-7-13-2. He got the better of Jeet Raval in that style, hammering away outside off stump before Raval finally took the bait, getting the edge through to wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed for seven.
At the other end, spin was introduced in the eighth over, and it soon proved profitable. After seeing off the new ball, Tom Latham tried to clip Yasir Shah through the legside, but could only offer the simplest of catches to Mohammed Hafeez at short mid-wicket. Off he trudged for 13 from 38 balls — having undone his solid work, and furious at a soft dismissal to a ball that offered little threat.
Shah then made matters worse for the Black Caps, with a sumptuous legbreak having Ross Taylor caught behind for two. While Nicholls fought hard, a needless drive at a full delivery from Abbas saw Ahmed snaffle his third catch, and start the Black Caps' collapse.
111-3 rapidly became 133-8 as part-time off-spinner Haris Sohail got in on the action, and then his fellow spinners returned to finish the job, leaving the Black Caps bowlers to try and salvage something — anything — from the day's play.
The odd-couple new ball pairing of de Grandhomme and Trent Boult snatched a wicket apiece before stumps, but it didn't change the outlook – the day went the way of Pakistan, and the test is set to follow.