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Pace Seems Way Forward For Decider

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Fuseworks Media
Pace Seems Way Forward For Decider

By Chris Barclay of NZPA Napier, Dec 10 NZPA - New Zealand may revise their recent policy of playing two spinners in the Napier cricket test after indications the pitch for the series finale with Pakistan will favour the quick men.

Wellington offspinner Jeetan Patel is usually employed with captain Daniel Vettori on what is traditionally regarded as a batsman's paradise. But with the wicket preparations complete at McLean Park and a healthy covering of grass evident, both sides may maintain a seam-based attack when the line-ups are confirmed at tomorrow's toss.

New Zealand pace bowler Daryl Tuffey was enthused by what he heard about a wicket block that is to be used for the first time this season.

"We've heard there's going to be a little bit more moisture and greenness so hopefully that brings the seamers into play a little bit more." If a final pitch inspection confirms that assessment, Patel and Pakistan's offspinner Saeed Ajmal - omitted for legspinner Danish Kaneria after Dunedin - should be braced for 12th man duties.

Patel has been confined to the outer this series. Any hope of him playing in last week's second test at the Basin Reserve diminished when wet Wellington weather kept the pitch under cover for four days of the lead-up, ensuring the fast men would take precedence.

Napier could usually be relied upon to require a two-pronged spin attack, with Vettori and Patel operating in tandem against the last three visitors - England, the West Indies and India. The last time New Zealand used Vettori as the solitary spinner was against the West Indies in a rain-affected draw in 2006.

Patel, no longer considered a candidate for the limited overs squad, has had reasonable success in Napier, taking six for 151 against the West Indies and four for 180 against the spin-savvy Indians in March.

However, that track record may irrelevant now turf manager Phil Stoyanoff has produced a surface likely to continue New Zealand's batting woes against a disciplined attack spearheaded by Mohammad Asif. Tim Southee might also come into consideration as a fourth seamer alongside Chris Martin, Tuffey and O'Brien if the New Zealand selectors opt to cull a non-performing batsman and lengthen their tail.

Both pace bowling attacks have dominated since the series started in Dunedin with only Ross Taylor, the Akmal brothers Umar, Kamran and latterly their captain Mohammad Yousuf able to score consistently.

Peter Fulton was New Zealand's fall guy after the second test was lost by 141 runs, and Pakistan may opt to remodel their batting line-up a second time, with time possibly running out for Shoaib Malik. The middle order batsman has managed only 46 runs in four innings and further blotted his copy book by dropping a slip catch and going gun-shy when another edge flashed past at the Basin Reserve.

If Malik is not given a final chance to get in nick before Pakistan head across the Tasman on Wednesday, Faisal Iqbal may be called in at No 6. Both sides trained outdoors for the first time since Dunedin yesterday, appreciating the sun on their backs after preparations in Wellington were held indoors.

Pakistan pace bowler Umar Gul was delighted with the climate change, saying if good weather continued through the test, the tourists might finally be able to get the older ball reverse swinging - another potential headache for New Zealand's already ponderous batting unit.

Both sides were to train for the final time today, with New Zealand's interest focused on whether retirement-bound fast bowler Iain O'Brien gets through the session after copping a blow yesterday to the finger he dislocated during the home side's 32-run victory in Dunedin. 

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