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Pakistan mentally on top in second Test

Pakistan will take a heavy psychological advantage into the second Test against New Zealand after wrecking the home side's batting at Hamilton.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2003 17:46 IST

Pakistan will take a heavy psychological advantage into the second cricket Test against New Zealand starting Friday after wrecking the home side's batting in the first Test at Hamilton.

Mohammad Sami shook New Zealand's self confidence when he scythed through their top and middle order, taking 5-44 before rain stalled its decline on 96-8. The match ended in a draw.

The imminent return of Shoaib Akhtar, who missed the Hamilton Test with a calf muscle strain, may only add to the psychological sway Pakistan holds over the Kiwis.

Akhtar, working in tandem with Sami, would be a formidable weapon for the tourists, who gained some mental leverage when they dismissed New Zealand for 73 in their last Test meeting.

It was Akhtar, who took 6-11, who undid New Zealand in that match.

Sami's performance in Hamilton was two-sided. He was a Jekyl in the first innings when he gave up 126 runs and failed to claim a wicket.

He was Hyde in the second when he bowled consistently at more than 150kph (95mph), topped-out around 154kph and found a length that was almost unplayable.

He was able to reduce New Zealand to 42-5 and 52-7, urging it to the brink of a defeat which seemed inconceivable when, behind century-makers Stephen Fleming and Daniel Vettori, the home side reached 563 in its first innings.

It was largely rain that denied Pakistan the time and opportunity to effect an outright win.

New Zealand had gained some self-belief in compiling a first innings total which was bolstered by Fleming's 192, Vettori's unbeaten 137 — his maiden Test century.

That belief was unraveled in the second innings and the effects of that may be felt in the second Test at Wellington's Basin Reserve.

It is unlikely the Basin pitch, which has been tired and flat in recent seasons, will greatly assist or encourage fast bowling. A recent first-class match on the ground, in which Fleming played, produced a hatful of runs.

New Zealand has also given some indication of its reading on the pitch by adding off-spinner Paul Wiseman to their 12 for the match, leaving out mid-order batsman Richard Jones.

If Pakistan wins the toss Friday, as it did in Hamilton, and bowls more effectively than they did when they lacked Akhtar's leadership, they could keep their hold on the minds of the New Zealand batsmen.

"We've conceded something to Sami," Fleming said after the Hamilton Test.

"If we could have kept his confidence down then they may even have considered not playing him in the second Test. Now, the first two hours in Wellington when he and perhaps Shoaib are together will be a big test for us."

Shoaib's fitness is still under a cloud. Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has said he will be fit but coach Javed Miandad said Thursday he was far from certain.

New Zealand coach John Bracewell has several concerns entering the second and final Test. While Fleming and Vettori showed form in Hamilton, opener Lou Vincent continues to struggle for form as do Craig McMillan and Chris Cairns.

Cairns is in doubt because of a virus. He was unable to train Thursday and is considered to have only a remote chance of playing. He was reported to be suffering from tiredness, muscle soreness and loss of appetite.

Batsman Richard Jones has been placed on standby to take Cairns place if he fails a fitness test Friday.

Pakistan has yet to name its match 12 but is unlikely to depart greatly from its first-Test lineup. Akhtar, if fit, may take the place of Shabbir Ahmed.

New Zealand (from): Stephen Fleming (captain), Mark Richardson, Lou Vincent, Scott Styris, Craig McMillan, Chris Cairns, Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Ian Butler, Paul Wiseman.

Pakistan (from): Inzamam-ul-Haq, Imran Farhat, Taufeeq Umar, Yousuf Youhana, Yasir Hameed, Moin Khan, Umar Gul, Mohammad Sami, Abdul Razzaq, Shabbir Ahmed, Danish Kaneria, Shoaib Akhtar.

Umpires: Dave Orchard, South Afria, and Asoka da Silva, Sri Lanka.

First Published: Dec 25, 2003 11:10 IST