Blackcaps v Pakistan: Ish Sodhi stakes claim as New Zealand's frontline spinner, despite drawn series

While the Blackcaps can lament the missed opportunity for a series victory in Pakistan, the return and resurgence of spinner Ish Sodhi should be seen as a consolation victory for New Zealand.

After a four-year absence from test cricket, Sodhi made the most of his return to the Blackcaps red-ball side, starring, as New Zealand fell short of only their second series victory on Pakistan soil.

Despite entering the series as back-up spinner behind Ajaz Patel, Sodhi finished as the top wicket-taker across either side, with 13 strikes at an average of just over 25.

Ish Sodhi.
Ish Sodhi. Photo credit: Getty Images

For context, the next best bowler was Pakistan's Abrar Ahmed, who took 11 wickets at an average of just over 43.

The first test also saw Sodhi record career-best figures of 6/86 in Pakistan's second innings, after adding a new high score of 65 with the bat as part of a 154-run partnership with Kane Williamson.

Sodhi's performances across both tests leave the Blackcaps with a selection headache.

In the spin-friendly conditions of Karachi, Sodhi comfortably outperformed both Patel (five wickets at 64) and Michael Bracewell (eight wickets at 39), taking the same number of wickets as his spin partners combined.

Although Bracewell adds value as a batting all-rounder, Sodhi's display and superior batting to Patel - despite a career high-score of his own - could see him leapfrog his way to the front of the queue.

The only hindrance for Sodhi's future test aspirations come with unfavourable home conditions, where spinners struggle to impact matches. 

For the Blackcaps themselves, Sodhi's efforts come as no surprise, after years proving his worth in white-ball cricket.

"Ish bowled beautifully throughout the two games," said Bracewell. "It was just awesome to see him back out there with the energy and excitement he brings.

"Also with the bat as well - he made some really valuable contributions there and so did Ajaz.

"It was great to see them out there doing their thing and [I] look forward to playing with them again in the future."

Bracewell also enjoyed a test to remember, registering new career-bests with bat (74 not out) and ball (4/75), as the two sides battled to a draw.

As part of a rare three-prong Blackcaps spin attack, Bracewell credits the lessons of his seniors in Sodhi and Patel.

"I absolutely love playing with Ish and Ajaz, they're great spin bowlers in their own right," he added. "I feel like I've learned a huge amount of knowledge from them in the last two weeks.

"It's been awesome to play with them. They're great mates of mine now, so it's something I thoroughly enjoy, playing with those two and learning from them."