Yasir Shah out to make Test cricket history in crucial Abu Dhabi decider against New Zealand
ABU DHABI: While Pakistan start their quest for a home series victory over New Zealand in Abu Dhabi today, for leg-spinner Yasir Shah there is a personal milestone up for grabs in the UAE capital.
The spin sensation is set to become the fastest player to reach 200 Test wickets in the history of the game, needing just five wickets to smash the record held by Australia’s Clarrie Grimmett, who reached the 200 mark in 36 Test matches, way back in 1936.
The third Test match in the New Zealand series will be Shah’s 33rd.
He took eight wickets in the first Test in Abu Dhabi, but Pakistan fell agonizingly short, losing by four runs before leveling the series at 1-1 — fired to victory by Shah’s 14-wicket haul which inflicted an innings and 16-run defeat on New Zealand.
And Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed agreed that the team’s hopes will be pinned on Shah.
“The way Yasir is bowling he has got his rhythm back and we hope that with the return of his form he will do his best to win us this Test and the series,” said Sarfraz on Sunday.
Until last year the Sheikh Zayed stadium had been a happy hunting ground for Pakistan, having won six of the ten Tests with four draws.
But they lost to Sri Lanka last year and against New Zealand after set low targets of 136 and 176 runs respectively, a fact Sarfraz said hurt his team.
“We need to bat long and that we did in the last Test,” said Sarfraz whose team put a big 418-5 declared in Dubai. “(The) toss will again be crucial because in Asia teams like to bat first and post big totals.”
Besides Yasir, Pakistan will also hope fast-rising left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi gives them edge, replacing medium pacer Mohammad Abbas who is ruled out with a shoulder injury.
The 18-year-old pacer took back to back four wicket hauls in the 1-1 drawn one-day series against New Zealand last month before getting seven wickets against England Lions in a four-day match, also in Abu Dhabi.
“Shaheen is improving day by day and has talent,” said Sarfraz of Shaeen who is six and a half feet tall.
Sarfraz admits New Zealand can be dangerous as they have the motivation to win an away series against Pakistan for the first time since 1969.
“New Zealand is a good team with experienced players who know Test cricket well,” said Sarfraz. “They have good bowlers so we will also try to play good cricket.”
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson admitted Yasir will be a dangerous proposition.
“He (Yasir) is a world class bowler,” said Williamson. “He clearly had a fantastic last game and bowled a number of very nice deliveries and used the conditions really, really well.”
New Zealand will gain confidence from their second innings batting with return to form of Ross Taylor who made 81, Henry Nicholls scored 77 and Tom Latham’s 50.
“There were some positives we would need to build from,” said Williamson of his team’s 312 all out. “It’s really an exciting prospect and the guys really are looking forward to the decider.:
New Zealand have the option of resting Trent Boult and bringing in Tim Southee, who has yet to play in the series.