WELLINGTON, Reuters) – Pakistan’s hopes of continuing their unbeaten run in seven consecutive test series will come under pressure when they face a resurgent New Zealand in the second and final test in Hamilton without inspirational skipper Misbah-ul-Haq.
Vice-captain Azhar Ali will take the reins after Misbah returned home following the death of his father-in-law and was later banned from the game by the International Cricket Council as punishment for his side’s slow over rate in their eight-wicket loss in the Christchurch opener.
Pakistan have rarely started tours well in the Antipodes where their batsmen have struggled on seam-friendly wickets.
They will also face opponents enjoying renewed confidence at home after New Zealand’s horror tour of India.
But the South Asian side have not lost a series in New Zealand for over 30 years and the hosts are bracing for a bowler-led backlash on a Seddon Park wicket that usually offers pace and bounce.
“The nature of Hamilton is that you’re going to be faced with different challenges — especially with their strong seam attack,” New Zealand batsman Henry Nicholls said.
“Yasir (Shah) is also one of the best spinners in the world, so when you’re playing these top teams you’re always being challenged.
“We’re expecting them to be at the top of their game. And it’ll be the same for us — we’ll be looking to improve on our performance from Hagley as well.”
Pakistan took the field without fiery paceman Wahab Riaz at Hagley Oval, preferring another left-armer in Rahat Ali.
Although Rahat took 4-62 in the first innings on the grassy wicket, the decision to omit Wahab raised eyebrows in Pakistan and he is in line for a recall for the match starting Friday.
“If the ball’s going to reverse, and the wicket has pace and bounce, Wahab is our number one choice,” coach Mickey Arthur told espncricinfo.com.
In Christchurch, Yasir went wicketless for the first time in his 20-test career and may again struggle to extract much from another grassy wicket. But the spinner is rarely subdued for two matches in a row.
Pakistan will need far more from their batsmen, however, after they were skittled for 133 and 171 at Hagley Oval.
Either Mohammad Rizwan or fellow uncapped batsman Sharjeel Khan are set to replace Misbah.
Rizwan, who toured with the squad in England, would slot into the middle order but Arthur said he could include opener Sharjeel even if it meant a major re-jig of the batting order.
New Zealand will be bolstered by the return of spin-bowling all-rounder Mitchell Santner, who has been recalled after his recovery from a fractured wrist and should replace leg-spinner Todd Astle.
Ross Taylor, who did not bat in the second innings after a having an eye test on the first day in Christchurch, has been cleared to play after seeing a specialist in Hamilton.