N Zealand draw on McCul­lum hero­ics for Pak­istan clash

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

CHRISTCHURCH: Pak­istan and New Zealand both claimed the high ground on the eve of to­day’s first Test in Christchurch, with the Black Caps draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from Bren­don McCul­lum’s clas­sic farewell in­nings.

Just days after a 7.8-mag­ni­tude earthquake rat­tled the city and dev­as­tated parts of the South Is­land, Pak­istan cap­tain Mis­bah-ul-Haq looked to cash in on a per­ceived lack of con­fi­dence in the New Zealand ranks after their dis­as­trous tour of In­dia, where they suf­fered a se­ries white­wash. But al­though Pak­istan are on a high after crush­ing the West Indies last month, New Zealand skip­per Kane Wil­liamson claimed his side was re­ju­ve­nated by re­turn­ing to home con­di­tions and fa­mil­iar seamer-friendly wick­ets. After be­ing flum­moxed by In­dian spin in all three Tests in Oc­to­ber, Wil­liamson said New Zealand’s chal­lenge was to pick them­selves up. “It’s im­por­tant when you come off the back of that In­dia tour, which was ex­tremely tough, that we still come back here and play with free­dom, ex­press our skills. When we do we play our best cricket,” he said. “There will be a lit­tle bit of move­ment for the seam bowlers but we’ve played in these con­di­tions a lot and cer­tainly back our­selves to play pos­i­tively.”

When New Zealand last played at Ha­gley Oval, for­mer skip­per McCul­lum smashed a world record 54-ball cen­tury against Aus­tralia in a bru­tal on­slaught that pro­duced 145 runs off 79 de­liv­er­ies. Wil­liamson scored seven off 69 in the same in­nings. “Bren­don was the com­plete op­po­site. It was a great ex­am­ple of some­one play­ing with free­dom and I think that came come from the con­fi­dence of know­ing your own con­di­tions,” he said.

New Zealand, who have not won a se­ries against Pak­istan since 1985, will de­lay fi­nal­is­ing their side as late as pos­si­ble al­though it has been con­firmed opener Jeet Raval will make his de­but. One of four pace bowlers in the squad is likely to be omit­ted to make room for leg-spin­ner Todd As­tle.

Mis­bah said the Pak­istan line-up was al­ready con­firmed but he was giv­ing noth­ing away be­fore the toss other than to say seamer-friendly con­di­tions would not hin­der them.

They played in sim­i­lar con­di­tions in their drawn se­ries against Eng­land ear­lier this year. “That ex­pe­ri­ence is re­ally go­ing to help us here, be­cause of the kind of con­fi­dence we gained from that,” Mis­bah said. Pak­istan have their own mo­ti­va­tion, hav­ing lost their top world rank­ing and Mis­bah said they were keen to get it back and de­spite New Zealand pitches not be­ing renowned for tak­ing turn, his ace re­mained spin­ner Yasir Shah. Yasir, with 116 wick­ets at 27.04 from 19 Tests “can get some­thing out of any con­di­tions.” Mis­bah said.

“It’s all about build­ing pres­sure, bowl­ing in the right ar­eas, play­ing with the mind of the bats­man,” he added.

“Re­gard­less of the con­di­tions, you can be ef­fec­tive and good bowlers al­ways learn ways to get peo­ple and I be­lieve he is that kind of bowler.” New Zealand strug­gled against spin in In­dia where senior bats­man Ross Tay­lor, with a ca­reer av­er­age of 46.24, could only av­er­age less than 15 in six in­nings.

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