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Pakistan Look to Save Series Against Confident New Zealand

Cricketnext Staff | Updated: November 23, 2018, 2:00 PM IST
Pakistan Look to Save Series Against Confident New Zealand

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Can Pakistan recover from the heartbreak in Abu Dhabi? Can New Zealand move on from the highs of the thrilling win? That will be the challenge for both sides as they meet for the second of the three Tests in Dubai starting Saturday.

New Zealand go into the game with a 1-0 lead, which they earned by a margin of just four runs in one of the closest matches Test cricket has ever witnessed. It was a victory out of nowhere; Pakistan were cruising at 130 for 3 chasing 176, and ended up being bowled out for 171.

That wasn't the first time Pakistan missed out on an opportunity to seal the game either. They bowled out New Zealand for 153 in the first innings, but failed to capitalise on the bowling effort to be skittled out for 227 themselves. It allowed New Zealand a slight entry into the game, which blew wide open by the time it ended.

It's these missed opportunities that Pakistan want to address, according to coach Mickey Arthur.

"It was incredibly disappointing. But everyone's hurting so much," he told ESPNcricinfo. "We get together again, we clear the air and we move to Dubai to play the second Test. Chasing 170-odd, we should have got there, that's not the issue. But we knew the pitch was probably going to be at its most difficult then. We missed our opportunity in the first innings. We needed to nail that first innings and get a minimum of 150 ahead.

"If we got 300 in the first innings, that would be the game done and dusted. That's where we slipped up, because the bowler's did a very good job. We rolled them over for 153 and 249, and that gave our batsmen a target to get. We missed our opportunity twice with the batting, and that's something we'll dissect and digest and remedy over the next couple of days."

For that, Pakistan will have to get their shot selections right. With wickets falling, they panicked and attacked under pressure, worsening the collapse. If their batsmen can correct that, they've got the bowling to do the damage as they've often done in UAE. They'll only have to look at the previous series against Australia, where they bounced back after a draw in the first game to win the next two.

New Zealand will know they have plenty of areas to work on despite their win. Left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel led the bowling efforts with a five-for in the second innings, while Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi and Neil Wagner too were among the wickets. But the batting has to step up if they are to win consistently in this part of the world.

They did show some improvement in the second innings, though. Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls and BJ Watling returned half-centuries from the match; New Zealand will hope for bigger scores from the top order to counter Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali and Yasir Shah.

If they can do that one more time and take the series, it will be a massive step in the right direction not just for New Zealand, but also world cricket in times when overseas wins are hard to get.

Squad:

Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Babar Azam, Saad Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed (capt), Yasir Shah, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi, Mir Hamza.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Jeet Raval, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, William Somerville.

First Published: November 23, 2018, 1:43 PM IST
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