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Kiwis out to salvage honour


CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, March 14 (AFP) - New Zealand's struggle to get back into their Test series against Pakistan will get harder on Thursday with the tourists set to welcome back two batsmen boasting 128 Tests and 24 centuries between them.

Inzamam-ul-Haq and Ijaz Ahmed are expected to return to the fold when the second Test gets underway here, strengthening a side that won the first match in the series in Auckland by 299 runs.

New Zealand were weighing up whether to omit new allrounder Jacob Oram or paceman Chris Martin from their 11.

Inzamam and Ijaz both missed the rout at Eden Park when New Zealand folded for 131 in their second innings.

Inzamam has not played since injuring his groin here nearly three weeks ago while Ijaz arrived last week as a late replacement.

Pakistan captain Moin Khan said it was difficult to change a winning side. But he could not ignore the credentials of his top batsmen.

"Inzy's fully fit now but we'll have to take a last look tomorrow. Ijaz, of course, he's here to play," Moin said.

"It was such a great victory it's a bit difficult. But we've got some good experienced batsmen so it's not going to be a hard decision."

It means opener Salim Elahi and Misbah-ul-Haq could drop out while new paceman Fazle Akbar, with four wickets from two Tests, could come in for legspinner Mushtaq Ahmed on a pitch likely to favour quicker bowling.

Inzamam's Test record speaks for itself. He has scored 4807 runs in 70 matches at an average of 46.22, while Ijaz has 3282 runs from 58 matches at 38.61.

Both have scored 12 centuries, and Ijaz scored a century on his last visit to the Christchurch ground during the 161-run win in 1995-96.

Ijaz, who has been out of favour with the Pakistani selectors, last played a Test a year ago against Sri Lanka but is still likely to open with Imran Farhat.

New Zealand have had just two days to get over their black Monday in Auckland when their last nine wickets fell for 26 runs.

They have called up paceman Chris Drum and allrounders Oram and Grant Bradburn brought in to provide batting depth.

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming looks likely to play three pacemen in Martin, Drum and Daryl Tuffey.

"We still have to take 20 wickets and we have to be covered for everything," Fleming said.

"It's a luxury having those guys to bat, and the bulk of the runs have to come from the top order.

"In the past we've covered it with (the injured) Dion Nash and Daniel Vettori so it's a lot tougher to get it right."

Given Pakistan's inconsistent performances in the Test arena in recent years, Fleming believes it will not take much to turn the series around on a surface better suited to the hosts.

"We've been in this situation too often and it lends itself to experience.

"We had opportunities in Auckland and we didn't take them ... if we'd done things better during the second session it might have been a different story."

The portable pitch here, which has been in use for three years, should turn into a batsmen's paradise and provide a better surface than the much talked-about Eden Park strip.

"It's been a good surface throughout the year and should have a bit more pace which is what we're looking for," Fleming said.

New Zealand (from): Stephen Fleming (captain), Matthew Bell, Mark Richardson, Mathew Sinclair, Nathan Astle, Craig McMillan, Adam Parore, Grant Bradburn, Daryl Tuffey, Chris Drum, Chris Martin, Jacob Oram

Pakistan (from): Moin Khan (captain), Imran Farhat, Ijaz Ahmed, Faisal Iqbal, Yousuf Youhana, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Saqlain Mushtaq, Waqar Younis, Mohammad Sami, Fazle Akbar, Mushtaq Ahmed, Salim Elahi, Misbah-ul-Haq.

Umpires: Daryl Harper (Aus), Dave Quested (Nzl).





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