It's been more than two years since the Black Caps played a test away from home, and an
incredibly tough task awaits them on their return.

The first of three tests against Pakistan gets under way at 7pm in Abu Dhabi tonight, with the Black Caps set to unleash new faces against a side which has been dominant of late.

There is likely to be at least one debutant in the Black Caps XI, with the low and slow wickets in the UAE lending weight to naming multiple spinners.

As a result, a test debut is on the cards for 30-year-old Ajaz Patel, with 34-year-old Will Somerville fighting with Ish Sodhi for second spinning role for the first test.


In truth though, none of New Zealand's spin options are likely to put much fear into a Pakistan side who dominated Australia in their test series last month.

After Australia desperately clung onto a draw in the first test, they were then destroyed by 373 runs in the second, with Pakistan continuing an impressive 2018 which had already seen them topple England at Lord's.

Showcasing the depth of Pakistani cricket, 33-year-old spinner Bilal Asif claimed 6-36 on debut against Australia, while Mohammad Abbas has emerged as one of the best fast bowlers in the world, having taken 59 wickets at an average of 15.6. Remarkably, the 28-year-old Abbas has 406 first class wickets at 19.48, but wasn't picked to make his test debut until 2017, underlining the amount of talent Pakistan's selectors have at their disposal.

A third face which the Black Caps haven't seen so far this tour will be spinner Yasir Shah — always a problem on sub-continent wickets — while Azhar Ali and his test batting average of 44 adds to Pakistan's strong batting core retained from the shorter formats.

It all culminates in an almighty test for the Black Caps, especially considering their awful recent test results away from home.

In their last four away tests, in 2016, they suffered losses by 178, 197, 204 and 321 runs. Since the start of 2013, they have won just five of 21 away tests — with four of those coming against Zimbabwe and the West Indies.

Black Caps bowling coach Shane Jurgensen knows his unit have to deliver if the visitors are going to have a realistic hope of victory.

"We've just got to make sure we're as disciplined as we can, we've done it in the past, we just need a UAE version in terms of the wickets that are here — they tend to be slow and low. We've just got to be really accurate and pinpoint how we want to attack their batters.


"It's just all those little things we've got to do as a bowling unit — in these types of conditions, you never really blow teams out, it's usually a matter of being really patient and disciplined as bowling unit. We've just got to keep hammering away all day."

There was good news however on the injury front for the Black Caps, with captain Kane Williamson set to play after missing the final ODI with a minor groin strain.