New Zealand have a chance to seal a first series win against Pakistan in more than 30 years in the second Test in Hamilton with the tourists without talisman Misbah-ul-Haq.
The seventh-ranked Black Caps go into the match which begins Friday 1-0 up in the two-Test series following a comprehensive eight-wicket victory over second-ranked Pakistan in the opening Test in Christchurch.
A win or draw in Hamilton will be enough for New Zealand to notch their first series win over Pakistan since 1985 and only their third ever in 22 series between the two countries.
The last time they met six years ago in Hamilton, New Zealand collapsed spectacularly in their second innings, losing their last eight wickets for 50 runs to be beaten by 10 wickets.
Wahab Riaz took three wickets in that onslaught and comes into contention for this Test after being by-passed in Christchurch.
Pakistan need their own injection of good fortune as they battle to turn around a sub-par batting performance in Christchurch where they totalled only 304 in two innings.
“As a batting unit we need to put up a better show … We have to improve in the next game,” said Azhar Ali, who takes over the captaincy in the absence of Misbah.
The inspirational Misbah, who has kept Pakistan unbeaten in the last seven series they have played around the world, has returned home following a family bereavement.
He would not have been available even if he had stayed in New Zealand after receiving a one-Test ban for Pakistan’s slow over rate in the first Test.
“We’ll miss him, definitely,” Azhar said. “Obviously we have to cope with that now and whoever comes into the side will take that opportunity and give us runs, as well as the stability he gives us in the middle.”
Apart from the likely inclusion of Wahab, Pakistan were revealing little about the make-up of their side for a pitch that generally offers pace and reverse swing, with some turn as the match progresses.
Azhar even suggested there was the possibility that acclaimed leg-spinner Yasir Shah could be excluded.
“We’ll see the pitch and make the decision then. Whatever the conditions tell us, we’ll try to pick the best XI for those conditions,” he said.
New Zealand have spinner Mitchell Santner back in their squad after recovering from a wrist fracture while Dean Brownlie, whose last Test was in 2013, was recalled as cover for Ross Taylor after a growth was detected in his left eye.
However, late Wednesday the 77-Test veteran was cleared to play in Hamilton, although he will undergo surgery afterwards.
“Both the specialists he’s seen in recent days have advised Ross still has 20/20 vision and Ross himself feels confident he is ready to play,” team physiotherapist Tommy Simsek said.
“Ross will still need to undergo a medical procedure on his eye to remove the pterygium before it gets any larger.
“He’ll have surgery following the Test which rule him out of cricket for approximately four to six weeks.”
New Zealand, like Pakistan, were short of runs in the first Test but declared themselves delighted with the “world-class” seam attack of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme, suggesting no change there.
“The way the four seamers in particular got into spells, held their areas for long periods … was world class and it certainly was a huge effort,” said captain Kane Williamson.
Both sides head to Australia after the Test, where New Zealand will play three ODIs and Pakistan three Tests as well as a series of limited-over matches.