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Pakistan want whitewash momentum against New Zealand

ABU DHABI: National Cricket team of Pakistan will be looking to maintain the winning momentum which gave them a long-awaited series victory over Australia when they face New Zealand in the first Test in Abu Dhabi on Sunday

Pakistan achieved a rare 2-0 triumph with emphatic 221-run and 356-run victories for their first series win over Australia in 20 years.

The win was more significant as Pakistan were without their match-winning spinner Saeed Ajmal who is suspended due to his illegal bowling action while spearheads Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz were both injured.

But an inexperienced bowling attack of left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar (14 wickets) and leg-spinner Yasir Shah (12) forced spin-shy Australia into submission in both Tests.

Pakistan will continue to attack a New Zealand team who also struggle against spin and have not won a Test series against Pakistan since a 2-0 triumph at home in 1985.

More impressive is Pakistan’s home record, having not lost against the Black Caps since 1969.

Of the 50 Tests between the two, Pakistan have won 23 and New Zealand just seven with 20 drawn.

For Pakistan, Younis Khan mustered 468 runs in two Tests against Australia while Misbah-ul Haq and Azhar Ali notched a century in each innings of the second Test.

Opener Ahmed Shehzad and Sarfraz Ahmed also hit hundreds in the first Test, a confidence boost which Misbah is confident will be maintained.

“We need to keep the same momentum that we had against Australia and I am confident that the team will do that against a New Zealand team which can surprise any time,” Misbah said on Saturday.

“There is confidence in the side and not a weak link that you can see. The batsmen are in good form, the bowlers are delivering. Given that we are playing in the same conditions, we are confident that we can perform well.”

On the other hand, New Zealand will hope leg-spinner Ish Sodhi can come good after taking five wickets in the drawn game against Pakistan ‘A’.

Experienced middle-order batsman Ross Taylor is fully fit after suffering a calf injury and will be in the XI, which will also feature two spinners in Sodhi and Mark Craig and two all-rounders, Jimmy Neesham and Corey Anderson.

The two pacemen will be Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum was confident his team would be a different prospect to Australia.

“I think obviously Pakistan were excellent in their most recent series against Australia and thoroughly deserved their win. They are a formidable team in these conditions and we are well aware of the challenges that are in front of us,” he said.

“I think we have nice mix in the group with right and left option (in batting) which probably Australia didn’t have in the middle and hopefully that’s one of the factors that can help us combat Pakistan’s line up.”

The remaining two Tests will be played in Dubai (November 17-21) and Sharjah (November 26-30), before two Twenty20s and five one-day internationals. -AFP

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