New Zealand on notice about Sharjah’s pitch

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson warned his team needed to be at their best to compete on a flat Sharjah pitch where they meet Pakistan in the third and final Test on Wednesday.

New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum plays a shot as teammate Mark Craig looks on during net practice session at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on November 24, 2014. The series-deciding third Test between Pakistan and New Zealand starts at Sharjah on November 26, 2014. Aamir Qureshi / AFP
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New Zealand coach Mike Hesson warned his team needed to be at their best to compete on a flat Sharjah pitch where they meet Pakistan in the third and final Test on Wednesday.

New Zealand are seeking a series-levelling win after losing the first Test in Abu Dhabi by 248 runs and drawing the second in Dubai.

Hesson said a flat and grassless Sharjah pitch will be tough.

“In the other two pitches we could see grass but not here,” he said on Monday. “This looks a bit different. Sharjah traditionally is lower and skiddier, and slows up as the game goes on. So I don’t expect this wicket to be any different.”

The Sharjah Cricket Stadium has been a happy hunting ground for Pakistan since the 1980s when they dominated one-day internationals at the stadium and they chased down a tough 302-run target at the ground to win a Test against Sri Lanka in January this year.

Hesson said winning the toss will be an advantage after the team calling correctly dictated terms in the first two Tests.

“It does give great advantage, no doubt about it,” said Hesson, whose team lost the toss in Abu Dhabi but won it in Dubai.

“Being able to bat first and third rather than second and fourth has advantages in this part of the world.”

Hesson said New Zealand’s come-from-behind win in Sri Lanka to level a two-Test series 1-1 in November 2012 gave them a lot of belief.

“We gained a lot of confidence from there and that was really impressive. The ball swung there [in Sri Lanka] and if the ball swings here it gives us more of a chance,” Hesson said.

Pakistan coach Waqar Younis stressed his team needed to be cautious after New Zealand’s resurgence.

“Test cricket is like that, you have to be cautious about any team, it doesn’t matter if it’s Australia or New Zealand,” Waqar said. “They are all fine sides and we need to be doing what best we can do, we drew the second Test but we are definitely capable of doing well and win the series.

“We did not field well so we have debated that and will certainly like improvement in that department.”

Clarke’s plan is to test hamstring on Friday

Australia have named Michael Clarke in a 12-man squad for the first Test against India starting at Brisbane next week, but the captain must prove his fitness in a match on Friday.

Clarke re-injured his problematic hamstring during the one-day international series against South Africa and is in a race to be fit for the first match of the four-Test series at the Gabba, which starts on December 4.

Clarke, 33, would need to be fit enough to run tomorrow to have a chance of playing for a Cricket Australia XI in the two-day tour match at the Adelaide Oval on Friday, chief selector Rod Marsh said.

“My gut feeling all along was that he’d be fit for the Test match,” Marsh said. “But now he’s got to play the two-day game here for him to prove his fitness and I think that’s really important because, with his recent history, we can’t have him breaking down in the first innings of a Test match per se.”

If Clarke fails in his bid, he would be replaced by a batsman, Marsh said, declining to name any candidates.

Uncapped paceman Josh Hazlewood has been rewarded for an impressive one-day series against South Africa with a place in the squad, but may be condemned to carrying the drinks, with Ryan Harris recalled after a long recovery from knee surgery.

Hazlewood, 23, replaces left armer Mitchell Starc, who toiled in Australia’s 2-0 Test series loss away to Pakistan, but the hosts are certain to retain Mitchell Johnson as their main strike bowler with fellow paceman Peter Siddle in support.

Spinner Nathan Lyon is expected to be retained despite a disappointing series against Pakistan, which saw him take only three wickets.

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