Stadium: Dubai Stadium
Live on Ten Cricket
Pakistan could be without both their regular openers when the second Test against New Zealand starts today, but captain Misbah-ul Haq is confident his side can keep up the winning momentum despite the setback.
Already ahead in the three-Test match series after winning the first Test in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan will be the overwhelming favourites to make it 2-0 at Dubai International Stadium, but they will have to plan for the absence of Ahmed Shehzad as well as Mohammad Hafeez.
Shehzad, who made 176 in Abu Dhabi, has been sent home after sustaining a minor skull fracture when hit by a Corey Anderson bouncer, while Hafeez strained his hamstring while batting in the second innings when he made an unbeaten 101. The two had put together 178 for the opening wicket.
There was still a chance that Hafeez might be fit to play, what’s sure is that he won’t be able to bowl his off-spinners after being reported for a suspect bowling action during the first Test, and that he’d have a new opening partner in the form of Taufeeq Umar, or Shan Masood.
The 33-year-old Umar would be the preferred choice, having the experience of 43 Test matches compared to Masood’s two.
“Obviously, there is a difference on the opposition as well as us, especially psychologically, when any in-form player is missing a match,” said Misbah, who became Pakistan’s most successful captain by winning his 15th Test match in Abu Dhabi..
“There is a bit of pressure on the other team because of your form players, and that is an advantage you lose when such a player gets injured.
“But I am very confident that the other players we have, they are good enough and they also understand these conditions well. I am sure these new guys can also give us a good start. It is a good chance for them to prove their talent.
“We are concerned about Hafeez’s injury, although we haven’t taken any final decision on him. He pulled his hamstring while batting in the second innings in Abu Dhabi, but he is much better now and we will have to wait for what our physio says tomorrow,” he added.
One big factor in Pakistan’s dominance in the recent Test matches – they also beat Australia 2-0 prior to this series – is that Misbah has been very lucky with the coin and has won the toss in all previous matches.
That has helped them bat in the most favourable conditions in the first two days, and bowl in the fourth innings after the pitch had deteriorated.
While New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum felt the toss would once again play a crucial role, Misbah was confident his batsmen would put up a good total even if they had to bat second.
“Sometimes it is an advantage but obviously it’s out of our control. The good thing is that we are batting well in the second innings as well when the wicket gets slower.
“In terms of our batting we are confident and we will be ready even if we lose the toss,” Misbah said.
McCullum added: “I spoke to someone the other day who said it is going to be a juicy wicket and when I asked if it was juicy for seam, he said it is juicy for spin. It does not surprise me. You have to expect this when you come to this part of the world. We have made some improvements from our last match. I am confident my guys will step up and make some adjustments and put in a good performance.
“The toss is very crucial in terms of allowing us a chance to win the game but it does not mean that is the end of it,” he said.
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