NZ vs Pak 1st Test: New Zealand will get a chance to improve their prospects in the ICC World Test Championship when they take on Pakistan in a two-match home series starting on Boxing Day in Tauranga.
New Zealand won by identical 2-0 margins against both the West Indies and India in their two previous series and are third in terms of percentage points won, the factor that determines the final placings rather than total points won, following a change to the points system owing to the Covid-19 disruption. Australia and India are ahead in the points table on that basis. New Zealand, currently on 0.625 percentage points, could go up to 0.700 if they can whip up another 2-0 win and move up to second depending on the results in the other series Down Under. However, a 1-1 draw would reduce them to 0.600 points and a 2-0 loss to 0.500 points.
Australia, who overtook India to the top position after the change in regulations from maximum points to percentage points, are currently on 0.835 one match into their four-match home series against India. India are on 0.705 playing their fifth series and in danger of losing more points after a forgettable loss in the opening match in Australia.
The top two sides at the end of the league on percentage points will contest the final. Each series of the league is worth 120 points, distributed evenly over the number of matches in a series, ranging from 60 for each match of a two-Test series to 24 for each match of a five-Test series.
On the other hand, Pakistan will be fighting to improve their present 0.395 percentage points with the potential of going up to 0.529 in their fifth series. Their rubbers so far include just one match of a two-Test home series against Bangladesh, which was to be played over two legs but could not be completed.
In another two-Test series that will run concurrently, hosts South Africa will be fighting for prestige as they take on Sri Lanka in a bid to improve their percentage points from 0.100 after two series which saw them lose 3-1 to England and 3-0 to India.
Sri Lanka is on 0.333 percentage points after two series — they lost 1-0 to Pakistan and drew 1-1 with New Zealand — but could go up to 0.555 with a 2-0 win or down to 0.222 with a loss by the same margin.
Meanwhile, a series win over Pakistan will help New Zealand leapfrog Australia to take the top position in the ICC Test Team Rankings while even a drawn series will see them slip to third behind India. The team rankings are run independently and do not affect the ICC World Test Championship.
The two series promise a lot of movement in the ICC Men’s Test Team Rankings, with New Zealand captain Kane Williamson within striking distance of second-placed Virat Kohli, who will not be playing the remaining three matches against Australia.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam, ranked fifth, is missing the first match owing to injury but would be hoping to be fit for the second. Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne (15th) and South Africa’s wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock (13th) will also be watched from the rankings perspective.
Among bowlers, the New Zealand pair of Neil Wagner and Tim Southee (ranked third and fourth), Pakistan seam bowler Mohammad Abbas (12th), Sri Lanka’s Suranga Lakmal (23rd) and South Africa spinner Keshav Maharaj (28th) would be hoping to build on their rating points and move up.