Toss vital as Pakistan, New Zealand play for series
Pakistan piled up 566-3 in the first Test in Abu Dhabi after winning the toss and then spun out New Zealand twice for a comprehensive 248-run win to take a 1-0 lead.
Despite the odds New Zealand staged an impressive comeback in the second Test in Dubai, winning the toss and dictating terms before Pakistan, set a target of 261 on the final day, salvaged a draw to set up an intriguing finale.
Pakistan’s spinners — left armer Zulfiqar Babar (13 wickets in two Tests) and leggie Yasir Shah (11) — will hold the key.
But McCullum said his team can take confidence from the improved performance in the second Test.
“We would have loved to have won the second Test,” said McCullum.
“But you have to look at what we have done in Dubai, bank the confidence and head to Sharjah knowing that we have an opportunity to win away from home if we play up a little bit up.”
“It is satisfying to keep the series alive (after the second Test) and it will give us more confidence, we learned a lot from the (last) game and hopefully we can improve more.”
New Zealand may bolster their batting by bringing in in-form Luke Ronchi for Jimmy Neesham who has struggled with just 39 runs in four innings.
Pakistan missed Mohammad Hafeez’s all-round skills in the second Test as his off-spin provides them the option of a fifth bowler.
He is likely to recover from a hamstring injury which forced him out of the second Test and could replace Taufeeq Umar who flopped in Dubai.
His bowling action was reported as suspect after the first Test but he can bowl in Sharjah, pending a report of a bio-mechanical analysis to be performed in England on Monday.
He is due to return to Sharjah on Tuesday.
Misbah wants Pakistan to improve their fielding in Sharjah after dropping a number of catches in Dubai.
“I am pretty pleased with the bowling and batting,” said the Pakistan captain.
“In the field we need to take our chances because on these sort of wickets if you miss chances it could be really difficult for the bowlers.
“Full marks to New Zealand. They really improved after the first game. They put us under pressure.”
The two teams also play two Twenty20 matches and five one-day internationals after the Tests.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul Haq (capt), Taufeeq Umar, Mohammad Hafeez, Shan Masood, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Talha, Rahat Ali, Imran Khan, Ehsan Adil, Sarfraz Ahmed, Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah.
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (capt), Hamish Rutherford, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, BJ Watling, Luke Ronchi, Jimmy Neesham, Mark Craig, Tim Southee, Doug Bracewell, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi.
Umpires: Rod Tucker (AUS) and Paul Reiffel (AUS)
Tv umpire: Ranmore Martinesz (SRI)
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)