Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed urged his faltering batsmen to play long innings to help their team bounce back in the second Test against New Zealand starting in Dubai on Saturday.
Since the retirement of two senior established batsmen Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq last year, Pakistan have been struggling to post big totals, especially in the run chase. In the first Test, they made heavy weather of a modest 176-run target, collapsing from 130-3 to 171 all out as New Zealand pulled off a sensational four-run win in Abu Dhabi.
Sarfraz says that Pakistan have left that defeat behind but recognize the shortcomings of their batting. “What mistakes we committed we have left them in Abu Dhabi,” said Sarfraz on Friday. “If you analyze our last eight Tests or so, our batsmen get out without playing long innings so we have spoken to them about that.”
Since the Younis-Misbah era Pakistan batsmen have scored only three hundreds in eight Tests, one each by Asad Shafiq (versus Sri Lanka in Dubai last year), Mohammad Hafeez and Haris Sohail (against Australia in Dubai last month). In that period Pakistan’s Azhar Ali and Shafiq, who are now the senior batsmen, have been well below their best. Azhar has managed just 422 runs with no hundreds and Shafiq 590 with one hundred—a far cry from what Pakistan needed.
Sarfraz said Pakistan badly needed a win in the second Test. “This is an important Test for us so we should play good cricket and we realize how important it is to bounce back and then go on to win the series,” said Sarfraz.
Pakistan have called up lanky teenage pace-man Shaheen Shah Afridi—who took seven wickets against England Lions in the four-day game in Abu Dhabi this week—but his chance of making a debut in Dubai are slim.
New Zealand are mulling the option of including a third spinner in uncapped off-spinner Will Somerville. The last time they played three spinners in a Test was against India in Kanpur two years ago.
New Zealand batsman Henry Nicholls said his team are more confident after the win. “Obviously, it was an ideal start for us to win the first Test and we have the belief heading into the second Test,” said Nicholls who made a fighting 55 in New Zealand’s second innings in Abu Dhabi. “We bounced back after not an ideal start and found ways in conditions that are foreign to us, so it was nice and has given us confidence heading into the second Test.”
“Pakistan will definitely look to bounce back so it’s for us to improve and to assess quickly and adjust at a different ground and different wicket,” said Nicholls.
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, Hasan 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
Umpires: Paul Reiffel (AUS) and Bruce Oxenford (AUS)
TV umpire: Ian Gould (ENG)
Match referee: Javagal Srinath (IND)