Nicholls wary of Pakistan bowling revival in Hamilton

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Hamilton—It had been in Hamilton – just under six years ago – that Misbah-ul-Haq’s captaincy had really got off the ground. On a track that had started out with a little pace and carry, Pakistan restricted New Zealand to 275, then put on 367 themselves. With the first innings having ended only just before tea on day three, the match appeared to be heading to a fifth day – even a draw on the cards, perhaps.
This would not do for Pakistan’s attack.
Spinner Abdur Rehman made the first second-innings incision, removing Tim Macintosh soon after tea. Then, in one session of searing reverse-swing, Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul tore New Zealand apart, tailing balls into pads, roughing batsmen up with short balls, and taking four wickets for a single run at one stage. The quicks shared 6 for 66 between them, and Rehman claimed three for himself, while New Zealand lost 10 wickets for 74 in a 27-over stretch that would go on to define the series. This was Misbah’s first of what is currently 24 Test wins as captain.
Pakistan may be missing both Misbah and Rehman on this trip to Hamilton, but the hosts are aware their opposition remains dangerous. Wahab didn’t play in Christchurch, but with the Seddon Park surface generally offering pace and bounce, as well as reverse swing, he may feature in the XI. Yasir Shah was muted in Christchurch, but will perhaps find the warmer climes of the North Island more to his liking.
New Zealand batsman Henry Nicholls said that even a victory as comprehensive as theirs in Christchurch, may not necessarily breed another here.
“I managed to spend a little bit of time in the middle in Christchurch, but the nature of Hamilton is that you’re going to be faced with different challenges – especially with their strong seam attack,” he said. “Yasir’s also one of the best spinners in the world, so when you’re playing these top teams you’re always being challenged. I don’t think you’re ever quite dominating them or anything like that.”
Rare is the series in which Yasir does not make an impact, and it is he who has produced the definitive bowling performances in Pakistan’s away tours over the past two years – in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and England. “It wasn’t long ago Yasir was the No. 1 bowler in the world,” Nicholls said. “I’m sure Pakistan will be hoping he’ll bowl a few overs and be threatening. We even saw in the second innings at Hagley [Oval] that he got a bit more turn and was a real threat.”
For Yasir to come into the game, however, Pakistan’s batsmen will need to muster more runs than they had managed in Christchurch. Their preparation for the tour had been hampered when their sole practice encounter had been washed out in Nelson, but they have now had a taste for New Zealand conditions in their Christchurch outing.
“The nature of when you play in different conditions is that the more you play in them, you hope to get better,” Nicholls said.—Agencies