New Zealand square off against Misbah-less Pakistan side at Hamilton

Opener Azhar Ali is set to captain in the first Test of his career in whites as Pakistan will look to bounce back and secure the level-equaling win in the second and final match of the series against New Zealand, starting from Friday in Hamilton.

The visitors had a tough tour so far, where they were first denied their only practice match as it washed out with a ball being bowled, then they encountered a 7.4 major earthquake in the middle of the night, and they suffered a thumping defeat in the opening Test by eight wickets. Making things worse for the Green Caps, now the team will be without their regular Test skipper Misbahul Haq, who became the only captain in the history of country’s cricket to lead the side in 50 matches in five-day format, as he returned back home after the death of his father-in-law.

In his absence, the team will be heavily banking on captain Azhar, veteran Younus Khan and middle-order batsman Asad Shafiq to produce better batting performance than the first match. The team management will have to make an important decision on whether to give a Test-cap to middle-order batsman Mohammad Rizwan or to opener Sharjeel Khan.However, coach Mickey Arthur in an interview with ESPNCricinfo, has  hinted that the inclusion of Rizwan is more likely, as including Sharjeel will call for ‘major shuffling’ in the batting order.

The 24-year-old Rizwan has already represented Pakistan in 20 ODIs and 10 T20Is, and has an average of 43.45 in first class cricket in 59 matches, which included six centuries and 17 half-centuries with the highest of 224.There is also suggestion that pacer Wahab Riaz, who missed the first Test as the team management opted for swing than pace, will be most likely included in the place of another left-armer Rahat Ali.

For hosts, there is a chance of a series win over the Green Caps on the home soild, which will be their first in more than three decades.Things looked far settled till Thursday, when the news broke that pacer Trent Boult will miss the second match due to knee injury.

In his absence, pacer Matt Henry is likely to get a nod, whereas spinner left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner is also expected to play in place of off-spinner Todd Astle. The pitch is expected to provide a lot of assistance to the pacer, as the batsmen will be likely to face a lot of trouble, just like they did in Christchurch.

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