Pakistan will have their task cut out when they face hosts New Zealand in the second and final Test of the series beginning in Hamilton on Friday. Pakistan’s batsmen were completely exposed in the first Test at Christchurch, as a result of which they now find themselves in a must-win situation if they want to maintain their unbeaten record over the Kiwis. The last time New Zealand beat Pakistan in a Test series was way back in 1985. On the previous occasion these two sides met at Hamilton, Pakistan thrashed the opposition by 10 wickets. They will be hoping for a similar effort, but it won’t be easy.
Pakistan have been dealt with a big blow as their skipper Misbah-Ul-Haq will be unavailable for multiple reasons. He has returned home following the death of his father-in-law. Even otherwise, however, he would have been unable to play as ICC has banned him for a Test owing to the team’s slow over rate. In his absence, one-day skipper Azhar Ali has been given charge of the side. Azhar will have a big responsibility both as a captain and batsman, especially since the series will be on the line at Hamilton. It would be paramount for him to find some inspiration.
In fact, Pakistan’s batsmen overall will need to lift their game. They were just not in their elements in the first Test. In the absence of Misbah, former skipper and veteran batsman Younis Khan will have a key role to play. Younis failed in both the innings at Christchurch, and Pakistan could not find any other batsmen who could dig in. Younis himself will be keen to get among the runs at Hamilton. But, the others will also need to chip in. In the bowling, Wahab Riaz is likely to come back, and should enjoy the conditions on offer at Hamilton.
New Zealand themselves would be without the services of Trent Boult, who has been ruled out with a knee injury. While that is a big blow for the hosts, at the same time, it also gives Matt Henry an opportunity to share the new ball with Tim Southee. Henry had a mixed series in India, but in conditions conducive to movement, he should prove to be more effective. Doug Bracewell has been called in as cover for Boult, but there aren’t high chances of him playing as of now, with Neil Wagner also in the squad.
In the batting department, there is a new development in relation to the struggling Ross Taylor. He will have to undergo a surgery as an unwanted growth has been detected in his eye. He will be available for the Hamilton game though, and will be under pressure to deliver for sure. New Zealand would be extremely pleased with the performance of debutant opener Jeet Raval in the previous Test, and would want him to continue the good work. Skipper Kane Williamson, himself, was among the runs. Overall, the Kiwis would be confident of putting it across Pakistan.
--By A Cricket Analyst