ABU DHABI // The Zayed Cricket Stadium will host its first ever Test match today when Pakistan host South Africa in the deciding match of the series.
Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, is hopeful that the wicket will offer more assistance to his strike bowlers, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Their speed was negated by the placid pitch at Dubai International Cricket Stadium during the first Test, which yielded nearly 1,300 runs.
"I don't want to criticise the pitch in Dubai, but it got slower and slower and didn't help the bowlers," Smith said. "Hopefully there will be more life in the pitch in Abu Dhabi."
Pakistan will go into the match in confident mood having played so well to secure a run-laden draw in Dubai. Set 451 to win by the Proteas, Pakistan made an impressive run chase, reaching 343 for three in an innings that often threatened to take them to a remarkable victory.
In the end they were forced to settle for a draw and Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain, hopes his side can again show their fighting spirit over the next five days.
"We needed a test like the one in Dubai, fighting our way and proving our worth," Misbah told www.supersport.com. "Our confidence is high and we will do our best to win the second Test."
Pakistan's last-day resolve was all the more impressive considering Mohammad Yousuf, a key batsman, had to pull out because of injury just moments before the toss.
In his absence, Younus Khan (131 not out), Azhar Ali (63) and Misbah (76 not out) all managed to resist the formidable South African attack for long enough in the second innings on Tuesday to avoid defeat.
And, after a long time in the Test wilderness before their re-emergence this summer, Misbah is pleased that he and his team-mates have managed to stand toe-to-toe with one of the highest-ranked nations.
"We weren't playing much Test cricket, so playing the world's second-ranked team in Tests was a challenge and after drawing the first Test we now have a belief that we can win also," Misbah added.
Despite performing so well last time out, Pakistan are still set to make changes to their line-up.
Wahab Riaz was unable to bowl because of a side strain, so either Mohammad Sami or the uncapped Tanveer Ahmed will come into the side.
Another debutant, Asad Shafiq, is also set to make an appearance, with Umar Akmal, Yousuf's replacement, expected to sit out.
South Africa will be hoping their normally reliable pace attack will be able to break down Pakistan's defences with more ease than they did in the first match.