Pakistan will be hoping 2023 turns out to be a more successful year for them after they finished the previous year on a low in Test cricket at home.
Babar Azam's team put up a great show at the T20 World Cup in Australia, reaching the final where they lost to England after a tough fight in Melbourne. But their form in Test cricket has nosedived.
Pakistan suffered a humiliating 3-0 home series defeat to England at the end of 2022 before avoiding another defeat – to New Zealand in the first Test in Karachi – only due to bad light.
The Black Caps were in a good position to win the first Test after the hosts made a surprisingly bold declaration on the final day day on 311-8 to set a victory target of 138 in 15 overs. The Kiwis were on course at 61-1 in the eighth over before play was stopped.
Pakistan have slipped to seventh in the World Test Championship table, one spot above fellow strugglers New Zealand.
Despite the setbacks, Pakistan captain Babar believes his team will play "positive and aggressive cricket".
"We need to take things session-by-session and day-by-day. We're working on it. It's not that we need to play different cricket," he said.
“We didn’t perform the way we had expected in red-ball cricket. Three sides ranked above us played in Pakistan that provided us a huge learning opportunity.”
The second Test will also take place at the National Stadium in Karachi, where New Zealand will be looking for a win for the first time in six Tests.
"It does look different from the first Test ... It has a bit more moisture," batting coach Luke Ronchi said.
"The preparations are shorter than normal, obviously we had just a two-day turnaround. It's going to be a hard slog to get a result, you have to bat really well and need to take 20 wickets."
Babar finished 2022 as the top run-scorer in Test matches with 1,184 runs in nine matches with four centuries, but will face scrutiny from the new selectional panel and board management that took office in December.
The flat and dry pitches remained a focal point throughout Pakistan’s home Tests. The lifeless pitches at Rawalpindi received two merit points from the ICC after hosting Australia and England in March and December, respectively.
But the new PCB regime hopes the wicket for Monday’s second Test will be livelier and will provide bowlers with more opportunities. New chief selector Shahid Afridi and a former PCB curator were overlooking the pitch preparation for the past two days.
"We are deliberating upon preparing a pitch that may help bowlers and batsmen alike,” Afridi said. “We cannot become a top team by playing on this type of wickets. The wickets on which we’ve been playing are not good for our bowlers.”
The two-Test series will be followed by three ODIs – also in Karachi – from January 9.