Kiwis pin hopes on bowlers to challenge Pakistan
SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates (AP) — New Zealand hopes its seam and spin bowlers will once again prove a challenge for Pakistan’s strong batting lineup in a bid to level the three-test series when the third and final match begins at Sharjah from Wednesday.
A bold declaration by Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum in Dubai last week jolted the Pakistan top order for the first time in over a month before Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq combined in a half century stand to help draw the second test and retain their side’s 1-0 lead intact in the series.
“We head to Sharjah knowing that we’ve got an opportunity to win away from home, if we play a little bit from the standard that we operated (in Dubai),” McCullum had said after the second test.
The slow wickets in the United Arab Emirates have encouraged teams to bat first, put up a strong first innings total and test the opposition with the reverse swing and spin bowling.
New Zealand lost the first test by 248 runs after McCullum lost the all-important toss, but the luck at the spin of the coin favored him in Dubai and the Black Caps notched a decent 403 runs total in the first innings.
“If we can get 450-500 batting first then you can really dictate play,” McCullum said.
Both seamers, Tim Southee and Trent Boult, adapted to conditions quickly and shared eight wickets in between them after returning wicketless in the first test in which Pakistan lost only five wickets in the entire match.
“We’ve got couple of days to get over the workload ... because it has been hard especially for the seamers and spinners, they really put lot of hard work,” McCullum said.
While Ross Taylor returned to form with a century after three disappointing knocks, New Zealand may decide to drop one of its allrounders — either Corey Anderson and James Neesham.
Pakistan has some happy memories of the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, where it chased down 302 runs in the last two sessions to beat Sri Lanka by five wickets in January and square a three-match series.
Pakistan’s top order is in such form that it has scored 14 centuries in the last four test matches, with captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Khan scoring half of the hundreds.
Though Sarfraz Ahmed has missed a couple of crucial chances in the second test, his batting at No. 7 has provided much impetus in the lower order. Ahmed has scored three centuries and three half centuries in his last six test matches and his belligerent hundred at Dubai narrowed down Kiwis lead to just 10 runs.
Misbah rued the fielding lapses in the second test, but hopes the team will not repeat the mistakes at Sharjah.
“We need to be really sharp in the field and take our chances, because on these type of pitches if you miss chances it will be really difficult for bowlers,” Misbah said.
“The kind of performances he’s (Ahmed) giving with the bat at No. 7, it really lifts the team and plays a major role in the wins,” he said. ”(But the) wicketkeeper not only has to bat he has to keep ... the kind of a guy he is he can really do that and he could be really main man for Pakistan in future.”
Pakistan spin duo Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah have once again troubled the batsmen with 24 wickets in two test matches after their haul of 26 wickets in Pakistan’s 2-0 whitewash of Australia last month.