Pitch report: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Ends: North End, Pavilion End
Home Team: Pakistan
Test history: 6 Tests (3 draws, 3 'home' wins)
Toss history: 3 bowled first (3 draws); 3 batted first (3 wins)
Named after president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the ground is situated on the outskirts of the suburbs and cost in excess of 22 million US dollars to build.
While its UAE neighbour Dubai brags an innovative lighting system, dubbed the 'ring of fire', and lavish stands, changing rooms and pavilion, this more modest arena makes do with standard floodlight pylons, twin grass embankments on either side of the pitch and air-conditioned glass rooms. Shade is hard to come by for spectators, who need to drive about 30 minutes from the city centre to get to the ground.
Last Time Out
In the last Test here, Pakistan thumped Australia by 356 runs to secure their first series victory over the men from Down Under in 20 years. After winning the toss and electing to bat first, Misbah-ul-Haq's outfit batted for all of 164 overs and eventually declared with their score on 570 for the loss of six wickets.
Younis Khan scored a double ton – his third consecutive score of over 100 – while Azhar Ali and Misbah both scored first innings tons too. Australia's response never really got going as they were bundled out for 261, with Mitchell Marsh's knock of 87 the only telling contribution with the bat from the visitors. Despite a massive 309-run first innings lead, Pakistan opted to bat again instead of asking the Aussies to follow on.
In the Pakistan second innings, Ali scored his second ton of the match, but it was the whirlwind 101 not out from Misbah that grabbed all the headlines after he equaled Viv Richards' record for the fastest Test ton in history in terms of balls faced.
Tasked with a world record target of 603, Australia's second innings went much like the first. David Warner scored an aggressive half-century and Steven Smith missed out on a well-played century when he fell for 97 as they crashed to 246 all out, with Zulfiqar Babar finishing with figures of five for 120.
Happy Hunting Ground
Abu Dhabi is the happiest of hunting grounds for Misbah, who leads the scoring charts there with a massive 742 runs in six matches, including four centuries. Ali and Younis are next highest scorers while AB de Villiers is the leading scorer for visitors.
From a bowling perspective, the leading wicket takers there are Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal – both with 18 sticks to their names – while Zulfiqar Babar with 12 victims behind his name is the most successful bowler who'll feature in the series against New Zealand.
Since this week's match will be the first the Kiwis will play in Abu Dhabi, they have no happy hunters there.
Misbah on Pakistan's bowlers: "Even before the series, I talked about these guys and said they were experienced because Yasir Shah had been bowling well at the domestic level. I know when he gets pitches like this, with turn and bounce, he can really produce these sort of performances. And everyone knows that Zulfiqar Babar has performed on a regular basis and he is a mature bowler. That's the luxury of having these sort of bowlers even in your second string when Saeed Ajmal and Rehman are not there.
"I also want to mention the contribution of the two fast bowlers. Imran Khan did very well. In both Tests, at the right time, he provided us with the breakthrough and Rahat Ali also bowled really well specially in the last innings. He had fever and he was feeling lethargic but he still produced good spells."
Australian captain Michael Clarke on their defeat at Abu Dhabi: "There's no doubt the batting has been extremely poor this series and that's led by myself. My batting is unacceptable as captain and leader of this team. That hasn't helped our bowlers one bit. I think we dropped 11 catches this series, that hasn't helped the bowlers one bit. I'm not going to sit here and blame any area, I think bat, ball and in the field we've been outplayed by a really good Pakistan team."
No rain whatsoever predicted for the five days with temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius expected throughout.
Whilst there will be some turn for the slow bowlers to work with, Abu Dhabi isn't the worst ground in the world for seamers to bowl at, as illustrated by Junaid's record there and the performances of the Pakistan quicks against Australia.
The wicket is generally a bit on the slow side and while it can be a haven for batsmen – four double centuries have been scored in the six matches there – it's not a surface where it is particularly easy to force the pace and patience is often rewarded over power.
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