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Weakened Pakistan strong enough for a series win over NZ

DUBAI: A weakened Pakistan will still be strong to win the second Test starting in Dubai from Monday, despite losing their in-form opener Ahmed Shehzad and in danger of sitting Mohammad Hafeez, and take a 2-0 lead in the three-match series. 

Shehzad was ruled out of the remaining two Tests after suffering a fractured skull when he was hit by Corey Anderson's bouncer in the first Test, during which he made a career-best 176. 

Pakistan may also lose their second opener Mohammad Hafeez who is doubtful for the second Test after suffering a hamstring injury. 

But skipper Misbah-ul-Haq was confident that his team will be strong enough to win. 

"Of course when you don’t have an in-form batsman, it’s a little bit of a concern but we have two openers in the squad who are looking good and they hope to continue this good form. 

"We haven’t decided on him (Hafeez). He has a hamstring injury and we have to see how he feels and then decide at the last minute, not thinking of his action but on how his injury is," said Misbah. 

"It will be slightly worrying because Shehzad is in good form and Hafeez gives us an extra option of bowling, but we have to face up to such things." 

Experienced Taufeeq Umar, who played the last of his 43 Tests in July 2012, and Shan Masood are likely to fill in as openers. 

"He (Shan) played really well against South Africa and showed talent against the likes of Steyn, Morkel and Philander. He is hardworking and I think all the abilities you can associate with an opener are with him, he can develop into a good batsman," said Misbah of the left-hander who scored a fighting 75 in his debut Test in Abu Dhabi last year. 

Misbah said the team is confident and raring to go. 

"It’s a big boost that batsmen are doing well, the top six are getting good runs and the wicketkeeper at seven is also doing well for the last two three series so it’s a big sigh of relief, even the inexperienced bowling is doing well." 

Pakistan inflicted a big 248-run defeat on the Kiwis in the first Test in Abu Dhabi for a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. 

Besides a spin web, paceman Rahat Ali, man-of-the-match for his six wickets in the game, reverse swung the ball to pile further problems on the New Zealand batting, which folded for 262 and 231 on a flat Sheikh Zayed Stadium pitch. 

There seems to be no change in fortune for the tourists as the Dubai Stadium pitch promises more help for spin and in turn multiplies the problems for the struggling New Zealand batsmen. 

New Zealand's best batsmen against spin, Kane Williamson (3 and 23) and Ross Taylor (nought and eight), were both at sea against the Pakistani bowling. 

Opener Rod Latham showed some grit against spin, scoring his maiden hundred in the first innings but that wasn't enough to thwart Pakistan. 

Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq said he was still not eyeing a whitewash, like his team did against Australia with a 2-0 scoreline just a week before the New Zealand series. 

"We should just take it one by one. It's really important to just focus and do things right and if there are weak areas do that right," said Misbah, who captained his 15th Pakistani win, a national record. 

The rest of the batting is expected to flourish after Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq and Hafeez scored centuries in the first Test. 

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said he hoped his team would be able to implement some changes. 

"We would obviously like to win the toss and make some adjustments from the last game and I am sure the guys will step up and adjust," said McCullum. 

“The toss was a big factor for us, especially when you’re coming over here to play a team so familiar and red hot in these conditions. Hopefully, I can win the toss in the next game," said McCullum. 

The third and final Test will be played in Sharjah from November 26-30. The teams will also play two Twenty20 and five One-Day Internationals. 

Teams (from):
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 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: Paul Reiffel (AUS) and Ranmore Martinesz (SRI)
TV umpire: Rod Tucker (AUS)
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)