Jeet Raval's match-aggregate of 91 in a low-scorer has made him a possible solution to New Zealand's opening woes, but he is a player that had piqued the selectors' interest for some time, coach Mike Hesson said. One of the steadier hands in domestic cricket, Raval has averaged less than 40 in only one of the past eight first-class seasons. A correct batsman who favours the leg-side, Raval was an assured presence on debut, both with bat in hand, and in the slip cordon.
"For Jeet to make his debut in conditions like this where he's performed in over the last few years, was great," Hesson said. "I thought his decision-making throughout was exceptional, especially around whether to leave or to defend. He stuck to his game plan - he's very disciplined and knows what that is. He was challenged over, and around the wicket. He was tested with short balls and swing. He stood up to all of them. I thought against Yasir Shah he showed he could come down the wicket, pick off his pads, and lap. He never went outside his plan even when he was challenged, which is a great sign."
New Zealand's other debutant, Colin de Grandhomme, had also been in the selectors' sights for years. He earned his place in the Test squad after hitting a 144 not out off 147 balls, in an extraordinary chase of 373 in a first-class match, on November 1.
"Colin has been a talented player for a long time, but we've sort of been waiting for something to click - for him to show that he's worked out how to play at first-class level first," Hesson said. "In the last six months we've seen some good signs of that, with bat and ball. It was just a matter of time really, whether it be short-form or long-form. He needed to work out his own game plan. People do mature at different stages. In this instance Colin is probably slightly a late maturer, but he's got plenty of years left in him."
Though de Grandhomme himself admitted batting was his foremost suit, it was with the ball that he made the biggest impression, taking 7 for 64 in the Test, and sparking Pakistan's second-day collapse which allowed New Zealand to take control of the match. New Zealand had a more experienced allrounder in James Neesham in their squad, but had surprisingly opted for de Grandhomme instead.
"No one thought Colin was playing a couple of days out," Hesson said. "But he was presented with a surface that suited his skill set. He's been doing that in first class cricket for years, on that type of wicket. We've got scouts and selectors all around the country who watch a lot of cricket."
The teams now head to Hamilton, where New Zealand have the opportunity to defeat Pakistan in a Test series for the first time since 1985 - though, said Hesson, the chance to alter that particular record doesn't necessarily motivate his side.
"We've had a lot of series recently where if you do this, or if you do that, you could create something. We'll wait and see. We've got to enjoy the last three days which have been an incredibly good performance. We'll enjoy and suck that up for a little bit. When we get to Hamilton we'll think about Hamilton."
Both teams are scheduled to travel on Tuesday.