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Solid Pakistan face different New Zealand challenge

ABU DHABI: Pakistan will start their three-Test series against New Zealand starting here from Sunday with confidence but mindful of the fact that the Kiwis can pose varied challenges than Australia. 

Pakistan annihilated Australia 2-0 on the back of great performances from the batsmen and bowlers, achieving a 2-0 white-wash over Australia for their first series win over the Kangaroos in 20 years. 

But skipper Misbah-ul-Haq warned his team must keep focus and not take the Kiwis lightly. 

"If you see the ranking, then Australia are way above New Zealand. But in international cricket, rankings don’t play a major part. New Zealand is a kind of team that can really surprise you and one has to be aware of that. We have to be really focused against them because they can really give us a tough time," said Misbah, who will become Pakistan's most successful captain with 15 victories if he wins this match. 

Imran Khan and Javed Miandad had 14 Test wins to their credit. 

Misbah said his team will not take New Zealand lightly. 

"We just can't take them lightly and we will have to play good cricket against them to win. 

"We don’t want to be reluctant and lazy against New Zealand. We want to be focused and just do our basics right and try to play like we did against Australia." 

Pakistan will continue to attack a New Zealand team that also struggled 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. 

Pakistan is likely to retain the same eleven, which won the second Test by 356 runs against Australia at the same venue. 

Misbah dispelled the impression that leg-spinner Yasir Shah hurt his finger during practice, saying the youngster was ready to have another go at the batsmen. 

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum Saturday targeted improvement in Test rankings with a good showing in the series against Pakistan starting in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. 

New Zealand, currently ranked as low as seventh amongst ten Test playing nations, can go up the ladder if they win the three-match series, a target McCullum sets his sights on. 

"If we perform well against Pakistan, then we can look back on the last 18 months of pretty solid work and we are aware that we are team who need to keep performing day in day out because we are well down the ladder in the rankings and we are not happy with that," McCullum said on Saturday. 

"We want to keep improving and we work incredibly hard and this is a great opportunity to do so." 

A one-nil victory in the three-Test series for New Zealand can lift them to sixth position with Pakistan, currently third, dropping to fifth position. 

A 2-0 win will push New Zealand into fifth place with Pakistan slipping to sixth spot. 

In contrast, a 3-0 series win over New Zealand will earn Misbah-ul-Haq’s side five ratings points, thus reducing Australia’s lead to seven points. A 2-0 win for the hosts will see them reduce the deficit to nine points, while a 1-0 victory will see Pakistan gain a solitary ratings point. 

A drawn series will result in Pakistan swapping positions with England, while New Zealand will improve its rankings point by one. 

McCullum admitted Pakistan are a tough opposition. 

"I think obviously Pakistan were excellent in their most recent series against Australia and thoroughly deserved their win," said McCullum of Pakistan's 2-0 over Australia. 

"Pakistan are a formidable team in these conditions and we are well aware of the challenges that are in front of us as a team and we have worked pretty hard in the lead up to hopefully come up with our plans and against their strength of bowling," said McCullum, whose team beat the West Indies 2-1 in their last series in June this year. 

McCullum hoped his team will prove different from Australia. 

"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 against the spin and hopefully that's one of the factors that can help us combat their line up." 

McCullum confirmed his team will play both the spinners – Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig – with two all-rounders in Jimmy Neesham and Corey Anderson and two seamers Tim Southee and Trent Boult. 

McCullum said he will open the innings with Rod Latham, a role he has successfully done in the past. 


Pakistan: Misbah-ul Haq (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, 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: Rodney Tucker (AUS) and Ranmore Martinesz (SRI) 

Tv umpire: Paul Reiffel (AUS) 

Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)