New Zealand seeks form boost at home in 1st test vs Pakistan
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) New Zealand coach Mike Hesson hopes a return to familiar conditions will help stem a four-test losing streak when his lineup meets Pakistan in a two-match series starting Thursday in Christchurch.
Hesson said the New Zealand players have moved on from recent away losses in South Africa and India and are determined to continue an impressive recent run of form in test matches at home.
''I think we've won seven out of our 11 tests at home in the last three years, with a couple of draws and a couple of losses,'' Hesson said. ''You do that because conditions are familiar to you and you adapt quicker than other sides.
''We've been stressing the fact that we need to prepare for conditions that we're more familiar with. It's a matter of going through that rather than reliving India.''
After losing its two-test series in South Africa 1-0, New Zealand was swept 3-0 by India, losing all three tests by large margins. None of the New Zealand batsmen come into the Pakistan series with the confidence of having a large number of runs behind them: none reached a century in the three India tests.
The Kiwis failed against the spin bowling of Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who shared 41 wickets in three tests, but Hesson believes they will be more comfortable at home where spin will be less of a factor.
Hesson said the pitch at Christchurch's Hagley Oval would have pace and bounce throughout the match and would likely be ideal for batting. He believed any mental scars from the India test defeats have already healed and the batsmen would have the chance to return to form in favorable conditions.
''There was a period of having to deal with dented confidence but that was some time ago,'' Hesson said. ''At the time we needed to dwell on some of the areas we hadn't performed well in and we've done that.
''We'll be challenged by this Pakistan (bowling) attack, there's no doubt about that. They've got an attack that suits all conditions around the world. They swing the new ball, they reverse it and they've got a very good spinner.''
New Zealand hasn't beaten Pakistan in a test series in New Zealand since 1985 and will again start as underdogs against the tourists, who are ranked No. 2 in test cricket.
Captain Kane Williamson indicated opening batsman Jeet Raval will make his test debut for New Zealand in Christchurch, though the remainder of the lineup has yet to be decided. Allrounder Colin de Grandhomme is also being considered for a test debut and Todd Astle might return to the test team as a specialist spinner after four years out.
Misbah-ul-Haq will captain Pakistan in a test match for the 50th time and, at 42, remains the nucleus of the Pakistan batting lineup with 37-year-old Younis Khan.
Pakistan has also yet to finalize its lineup but coach Mickey Arthur said he expected Hagley Oval to provide a ''good, fair cricket wicket.''
''We've got some pretty handy swing and seam bowlers as well,'' Arthur said. ''I still think it's going to be top seven (batsmen) versus top seven really because both sides possess really good bowling attacks in all departments, seam swing, pace and spin.''