Big Picture

Even the most ardent Pakistan supporters will have struggled to suppress a grin at their team's comedy of errors on a fantastical fourth afternoon in Abu Dhabi. The humour is unlikely to have spread to the dressing room, however, where a devastated set of players and backroom staff saw three and a half days of hard work tossed down the drain, and where Pakistan should have been gearing up to seal this series in Dubai, they now look to avoid losing it at the earliest possible stage.

Whether Sarfraz Ahmed's side suffers a hangover from that four-run loss may go a long way to determining the tempo of this Test. New Zealand will, of course, be buoyed by their performance; games like those can often justify a career's worth of grind and toil, and Pakistan have their work cut out subduing that positivity among the visitors' ranks.

Hard as it may be, Pakistan would be best served focusing on the winning positions they regularly got into throughout the first Test. The bare facts are New Zealand were clinging on to stop Pakistan from running out of sight in Abu Dhabi, and without significant assistance from the opposition batsman, would be on the other side of the result, as the run of play had suggested all along. It is what caused Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur the greatest disappointment, with the hope being if his men are able to reach a position of dominance in Dubai, it will not be squandered as easily.

New Zealand established they were going to pose a much sterner test for Pakistan than their traditionally stronger trans-Tasman rivals Australia, and have put themselves in the position to return home with a fifth series win in the last six. The cricket they have played requires significant improvement, particularly the batting, which always appeared to be a grind in Abu Dhabi, but the team spirit and the fighting qualities that have long been New Zealand's hallmarks continue to burnish as brightly as they always have.

And therein lies the intrigue about this second Test. New Zealand might be good, but most sides have needed to be far better to win a Test match against Pakistan in the UAE. And though this win didn't come to them easily, there was an element of it falling into their lap all of a sudden after four days of chipping away, with Kane Williamson and his men standing as proud survivors.

It has long been said that good sides win when they're not playing their best. It might be a platitude New Zealand will latch on to, but at the moment, it doesn't quite convince. For that matter, neither do Pakistan.

Form guide

Pakistan: LWDLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand: WDWWW

In the spotlight

Asad Shafiq is a "fantastic little player", according to Arthur. That he hasn't then taken the next step and found a way to sneak his name into conversations about Joe Root, Virat Kohli, and indeed Williamson, is a blight not just on his own career, but every member of the coaching staff entrusted with helping him reach his world-class potential. He was the only batsman from either side to score over 40 in each try in Abu Dhabi. That he got out on 45 and 43 - unforgivably in the second innings when he should have led Pakistan to the win - is plaintively representative of a career which promised far more than it might ever deliver. Still only 32, Shafiq has time on his side to make amends, and the only hope one can have is the first Test was a watershed moment for him, and he appreciates his responsibility to a side he has perhaps become too comfortable in.

With Ajaz Patel's memorable debut cementing his role in the side and establishing him as a leading spin contender for his country, it is time for Ish Sodhi to make his mark as well. With a pleasing run-up and the natural advantage of height, Sodhi has become one of the world's best spinners in limited-overs cricket, but an average of 47 in Tests isn't good enough. His last outing in the UAE doesn't inspire confidence either, where he took just eight wickets across three Tests at an unflattering 67.6 runs per strike. Four years on in Abu Dhabi, he had another relatively quiet Test match, and although three wickets for 78 represent a respectable return, it was notable Williamson favoured Patel to operate in the final stages on day four. That, as well as unpleasant memories from four years on, should spur Sodhi on to make a more central impact in the Tests to come.

Team news

The response to Abu Dhabi appears to be more measured than those of collapses past, meaning a fairly similar XI will line up in Dubai. However, Sarfraz did hint that left-arm quick Shaheen Afridi could make his Test debut.

Pakistan (possible): 1 Imam-ul-Haq, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Haris Sohail, 5 Babar Azam, 6, Asad Shafiq, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 8 Hasan Ali, 9 Bilal Asif/Shaheen Afridi, 10 Mohammad Abbas, 11 Yasir Shah

New Zealand took a bold decision in leaving Tim Southee out, but Ajaz Patel more than justified his place in the side on a frenzied final day. That means Matt Henry and Southee may find themselves locked out of the final XI again.

New Zealand (possible): 1 Jeet Raval, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 BJ Watling (wk), 6 Henry Nicholls, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Ish Sodhi, 9 Neil Wagner, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Ajaz Patel

Pitch and conditions

Dubai should see cooler weather than Abu Dhabi, and the pitch, while predictably dry, looks somewhat better for batting than that in the first Test. All that means the side winning the toss has another straightforward enough decision: bat first.

Stats and trivia

  • Should he play tomorrow, Asad Shafiq will have featured in his 60th consecutive Test match for Pakistan. That level of permanence is unmatched in the country's history, with Javed Miandad's 53 the next best.
  • BJ Watling is 94 runs from 3,000 Test runs. He will be the 14th man from New Zealand to get there, and is the second-longest serving player in the current side, with only Ross Taylor having made his debut sooner.
  • Quotes

    "Consistency is the key, especially playing here, and we'll look to keep Pakistan under pressure"
    BJ Watling looks to channel the momentum from Abu Dhabi into Dubai

    "The mistakes we made in Abu Dhabi we've left behind in Abu Dhabi. We had a team meeting after the match and before coming to Dubai, decided we would look forward to the next game than dwell upon the previous one"
    Sarfraz Ahmed hopes his team can look towards a fresh start in the second Test in Dubai

    Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000