The majority of the eyes will undoubtedly be on the blockbuster Australia vs India series, but New Zealand could provide some of this summer’s most exciting entertainment with West Indies and Pakistan both set to visit the Kiwis in the coming months.

After a break of nearly ten months, international cricket is finally set to return to the Land of the Long White Cloud, with New Zealand set to host the West Indies and Pakistan for a combined six T20s and four Test matches. The Blackcaps will get their home season underway with a 3-match T20 series against a star-studded West Indies side on November 27. Following that, the two countries will play a 2-match Test series starting on December 03. Pakistan will be the next team to arrive in New Zealand, and they too, will play 3 T20s and 2 Test matches.

Australia and Bangladesh are also pencilled in to visit New Zealand for limited over series in late February. But before we get to that, let us focus on the assignments that await Kane Williamson’s side against the West Indies and Pakistan.

Glenn Phillips ramp shot during the first T20 against West Indies in Nelson on December 29, 2017

New Zealand vs West Indies (3 T20s, 2 Tests)

New Zealand will begin their summer with a T20s series against 2016 ICC World T20 champions West Indies. Led by Kieron Pollard, the West Indies have a very talented squad filled with players who specialise in the shortest format of the game. The likes of Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer have shown in the IPL just how destructive they can be with the bat in their hand. While Sheldon Cottrell will lead a potent bowling attack, which also features the very highly rated Keemo Paul. So New Zealand will have to be at their very best if they are to win the series and improve their T20 ranking of sixth. Their last T20 series saw them suffer a 5-0 whitewash at home to India, so Gary Stead and the selectors could look to bring some new faces into the team.

The focus will then very quickly switch to the longest format of the game, as the teams play two Tests as part of the ICC World Test Championship. The second ranked New Zealand will be heavy favourites going into this leg of the tour. But the West Indies are certainly not a team to be taken lightly. They will go into the series on the back of an encouraging showing in England, which saw them narrowly lose the series 2-1. And the green pitches in New Zealand will certainly suit their all-pace bowling attack which features Jason Holder, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel. The battle between the two pace attacks will certainly make for exciting viewing.

While bowling is the West Indies’ strength, their batting is a notable weakness. And that is something New Zealand could look to exploit in the series. Neil Wagner, Tim Southee and Trent Boult could run riot if the West Indies bat like they did in England.

The last time these two sides met was back in December 2017, and it was New Zealand who enjoyed a dominant 2-0 series win, with Neil Wagner wreaking havoc on the West Indies batsman. The left-arm pacer took 14 wickets in the series, including a career best 7-39 in the first test. New Zealand also won the T20 series that followed in convincing fashion, although they will face a much changed West Indies team this time around.

Colin de Grandhomme playing a shot through the covers during Pakistan’s win by 6 wickets at the 2019 Cricket World Cup played at Edgbaston, Birmingham

New Zealand vs Pakistan (3 T20s, 2 Tests)

The Kiwis will then turn their attentions to Pakistan, who have a much more balanced squad on paper, and will arguably offer a sterner test. Pakistan’s previous assignment also came in England post-lockdown. And while they suffered a 1-0 defeat in the 3-match Test series, they did manage to draw the T20 series 1-1.

The New Zealand-Pakistan series will begin with 3 T20s and it gets underway on December 18. Pakistan have an impressive record in the shortest format of the game over the last four years. While they have lost four of their last six series, they were on a run of ten straight series wins before that. With the world-class Babar Azam leading the side, a talented pace bowling attack, and the legendary Misbah-ul-Haq as head coach, Pakistan are a very capable team, as evidenced by their ranking of fourth in T20 cricket.

Pakistan haven’t had as much success in the test match arena, with their last overseas series win coming all the way back in 2017 (against the West Indies). They certainly had their chances against England, but poor decision making and a lack of experience ultimately ended up costing them. Reports say that they could travel to New Zealand with a new Test captain, as Azhar Ali is set to lose captaincy after a string of poor results. Limited-overs captain Babar Azam is the favourite to replace him. The 28 year old is considered to be one of the best batsmen in the sport, but if New Zealand can find a way of stopping him, they’ll fancy their chances of winning the series.

On the other hand, the Kiwis have an excellent record at home, having lost just one test match in New Zealand since Kane Williamson took over. They will certainly be confident of keeping that record intact against Pakistan, as their overall quality across all departments will likely be just too much to handle for the team from the subcontinent.

The last time New Zealand and Pakistan met in a test cricket was back in 2017, and they played out a thrilling series in the UAE. But ultimately, it was New Zealand who came out on top, winning the series 2-1 and ending their 49 year wait to beat Pakistan away from home. The two teams met in New Zealand one year earlier, and Kane Williamson’s side was victorious on that occasion as well. The hard fought 2-0 series win was their first over Pakistan since 1985.

Players to Watch

Kyle Jamieson

Kyle Jamieson burst onto the scene last summer and played a key role in New Zealand’s demolition of India, taking nine wickets in the 2-match series, including a four-for on debut, which included the wickets of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. The 6′ 8” seamer also played some very handy knocks with the bat, both in the test and one-day series, hinting at a possible future for him as an all-rounder (cue the comparisons with Jacob Oram).

Jamieson now looks set to play an even bigger role for the Blackcaps, and he will be aiming to pick up right where he left off last summer. New Zealand are blessed with some of cricket’s most talented fast bowlers, with Neil Wagner, Trent Boult and Tim Southee all still in their primes, and Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry waiting in the wings. However, the country’s green, pace friendly tracks will often allow them to play with four seamers in the XI. And that could give Jamieson a chance to continue and terrorise opposition batsmen.

Devon Conway

After being rewarded with a central contract in May, Devon Conway looks set to break into the New Zealand set up this summer. Conway has been one of the most prolific batsmen in the country’s domestic cricket tournaments since immigrating from South Africa, and was the leading run-getter in the Plunket Shield, the Ford Trophy and the T20 Super Smash last season. He has started this season in decent form too, and was Wellington best performer with the bat with scores of 31 and 81 in their embarrassing loss to Canterbury last week.

New Zealand have a set and consistent top-order, so Conway will have to continue to impress if he wants to work his way into the team. But an opportunity could arise sooner rather than later, especially with BJ Watling and Ross Taylor nearing the end of their careers.

Will Young

Another player aiming to break into the New Zealand XI will be right-hand batsman Will Young. The 27-year old has been a consistent performer on the domestic circuit, and currently lies on the fringes of the New Zealand squad. He hasn’t yet made his official debut for the Kiwis, but did impress against the Australians in the World Cup warm-up series last year.

A shoulder surgery prevented him from getting his chance last summer, but the packed schedule means that he could be in line for his New Zealand debut in the coming months. “He’s got the ability to play all around the wicket, off front and back foot, which is really important,” former New Zealand batsman and batting coach Peter Fulton said about Young in July.