ABU DHABI- Pakistan will look to keep their winning momentum which gave them a long-awaited series victory over Australia when they face New Zealand in the first Test in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Pakistan achieved a rare 2-0 win with emphatic 221-run and 356-run victories for their first series win over Australia in 20 years.
The win was more significant as Pakistan were without their match-winning spinner Saeed Ajmal who is suspended due to illegal bowling action while spearheads Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz were both injured.
But an inexperienced bowling attack of left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar (14 wickets) and leggie Yasir Shah (12) forced spin-shy Australia into submission in both Tests.
Pakistan will continue to attack a New Zealand team who also struggle against spin and have not won a Test series against Pakistan since a 2-0 triumph at home in 1985.
More impressive is Pakistan’s home record, having not lost against the Black Caps since 1969.
Of the 50 Tests between the two, Pakistan have won 23 and New Zealand just seven with 20 drawn.
The New Zealanders will be huge underdogs.
For Pakistan, Younis Khan mustered 468 runs in two Tests against Australia while Misbah-ul Haq and Azhar Ali notched a century in each innings of the second Test.
Opener Ahmed Shehzad and Sarfraz Ahmed also hit hundreds in the first Test, a confidence boost which Misbah is confident will be maintained.
“I am confident that we will play good cricket against New Zealand, and we should play that way,” said Misbah.
“There is confidence in the side and not a weak link that you can see. The batsmen are in good form, the bowlers are delivering. Given that we are playing in the same conditions, we are confident that we can perform well.”
Pakistan have retained the same 16-man squad for the first Test and will likely make no changes from the second Test against Australia which was played at the same Abu Dhabi venue.
New Zealand hope leg-spinner Ish Sodhi can come good after taking five wickets in the drawn side game against Pakistan ‘A’.
The Kiwis will also hope their experienced middle-order batsman Ross Taylor is fully fit after suffering a calf injury and having managed just 11 in the tour game in Sharjah.
New Zealand coach Mike Hesson admitted Pakistan will be tough in the familiar conditions of the United Arab Emirates where they have been forced to play since terrorist attacks caused a suspension of international cricket in their country in 2009.
“Pakistan are an incredibly tough team to play in conditions favourable to them. Our record against them is actually the worst against any of the Test playing nations, having won just two out of 19 series, both home and away.”
The remaining two Tests will be played in Dubai (November 17-21) and Sharjah (November 26-30).
After the Tests, the teams will also play two Twenty20s and five one-day internationals.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul Haq (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Shan Masood, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Talha, Rahat Ali, Imran Khan, Ehsan Adil, Sarfraz Ahmed, Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah.
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (capt), Hamish Rutherford, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, BJ Watling, Luke Ronchi, Jimmy Neesham, Mark Craig, Tim Southee, Doug Bracewell, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi.