After winning the toss New Zealand face a trial by spin after losing two wickets to Yasir Shah on the opening morning of the first Test with Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. A customary wicket to the sensational Mohammad Abbas set the tone for Pakistan’s dominance after Kane Williamson chose to bat, and two quick wickets to Yasir forced the tourists into a shell.
At lunch on Friday, New Zealand were 81/3 in 37 overs with Williamson on 40 and Henry Nicholls on 15.
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed showed confidence in leg-spinner Yasir Shah and medium pacer Mohammad Abbas who can combine to tame “tough” New Zealand in the first Test starting in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
The fast-rising Abbas played an important role in Pakistan’s 1-0 triumph in a two-match Test series against Australia taking 17 wickets including a ten-wicket haul.
Abbas, who made test debut last year, has taken 59 wickets in his first 10 Tests at an average of 4.71.
Sarfraz is looking forward to Yasir who he thinks can be a trump card for them in the Test series against New Zealand. It is important to mention here that Yasir only took eight wickets in test series against Australia.
“Yasir has potential to be on top in these conditions and I hope he will gain his form back in this series,” he said.
Yasir has been a match winner on the neutral venues of United Arab Emirates (UAE) where Pakistan have been forced to play since a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team suspended international cricket back home.
He took 15 wickets in the 1-1 series draw against New Zealand in the UAE in 2014.
But Pakistan have not beaten New Zealand in a Test series since 2011, and Sarfraz is not taking them lightly.
“New Zealand are a good side and gave us tough times both in the Twenty20s and one-day internationals,” said Sarfraz of the preceding series.
Pakistan crushed New Zealand 3-0 in Twenty20s while their one-day series was shared 1-1 after the third match ended in a no result due to rain in Dubai.
Pakistan will resist the temptation of playing the newest pace sensation, Shaheen Shah Afridi, whose nine wickets earned him man-of-the-series in ODIs.
Abbas is likely to share the new ball with Hasan Ali while Yasir, Bilal Asif and Mohammad Hafeez will hold the command of the spin department.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, who returns to the squad after missing the third one-day with a groin strain, hopes his team adapt fast.
“Obviously, coming into Pakistan’s home series there is a lot of work to do in terms of the overseas sides adapting to the conditions as best as they can,” said Williamson.
The black cap’s skipper also admitted the threats from Abbas and Yasir who can create disturbance for the visitors.
“They both are outstanding bowlers and bowling well for a long time. Abbas, ever since he entered international cricket, is bowling superbly around the world,” said Williamson.
New Zealand are likely to hand a debut to left-arm Ajaz Patel, who is set to partner either off-spinner Will Somerville or leg-spinner Ish Sodhi.
New Zealand also have strong pace attack options including Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, and Matt Henry.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Saad Ali, Yasir Shah, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Hassan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Faheem Ashraf, Mir Hamza
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Jeet Raval, Ish Sodhi, Will Somerville, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner