Anyone who has travelled across the United Arab Emirates could be forgiven a wry grin if they perused the New Zealand cricket team's upcoming itinerary against Pakistan.

The prospect of the Black Caps playing not one but two tests at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Stadium will presumably fill players who were there for the 2014 fixture with trepidation.

Sharjah's stadium will be hosting the Afghanistan Premier League during the 2018 tour, meaning a wily Pakistan Cricket Board have offered two helpings of the longest format at the Abu Dhabi venue.

One starts on November 16, and the other on December 3.


The hosts have won five, drawn four and lost once in 10 tests at the ground. The defeat came against Sri Lanka last September.

In 2014, New Zealand arrived on November 9 to a cauldron baked in sun, surrounded by desert and a handful of pylons electrifying the region.

The visitors suffered a zapping of their own, to the tune of 248 runs. The only consolation was that Australia were beaten there 10 days earlier by 356 runs.

One of test cricket's great unknowns is how many times captain Brendon McCullum wished the UAE dirham at the toss had landed on "tails" after he'd called "heads".

That punt, combined with meticulous Pakistan batting and a few botched chances, put a New Zealand victory beyond reach by lunch on the second day.

Pakistan amassed an aggregate of 741 for five across both innings.

The Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo / Getty
The Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo / Getty

Conversely, New Zealand struggled. Apart from Tom Latham's maiden test century, Ish Sodhi's career-best 63 was the only other score over 50. The visitors battled reverse swing and aggressive spin, often with a horde of fielders imprisoning them around the bat.

The Abu Dhabi sun remains a foe New Zealand will only ever appease rather than beat.


As was noted at the time, water and electrolyte drinks will become precious currencies, shade provides prime real estate and shirts that billow in the slightest zephyr are haute couture.

Sure, players can escape to the refuge of air-conditioned hotel rooms, but there's no evading the demands for performance in the desert. One school of thought suggests an ice box at day's end - and throughout the night - can be counter-productive to acclimatisation.

Fitness and concentration levels will be scrutinised. Hours bowling off the long run, or batting in suffocating protection equipment will threaten accuracy.

The odds shorten against batsmen or fielders making a solitary error of judgment which could concede or prevent a wicket respectively. Sweat evaporates off the skin and dehydration poses the risk of becoming a human raisin.

In 2014, New Zealand eventually bridged the chasm with a draw in Dubai - when they had the luxury of winning the toss - and a victory in Sharjah when they didn't.

Batting first is mandatory when the chance presents.

Fortunately the one-day internationals delivered a different dividend at Abu Dhabi, with New Zealand winning the final two of the series to take it 3-2.

However, they were day-nighters played in the relative cool of the evening, a respite the visitors won't get in the longer form.