Babar cleared but not confirmed for Pakistan in second Test

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MOUNT MAUNGANUI (AFP) – Pakistan’s talismanic captain Babar Azam has been cleared to play in the second Test against New Zealand starting in Christchurch on Sunday but has not been confirmed in the team.

“He has batted very well in the nets and he’s fine now but he wants to hit some more today and we’ll find out tomorrow,” Mohammad Rizwan, who captained the side in the first Test, said as the team practised on Saturday.

Babar has not played on the tour since breaking a thumb during a practice session after completing their Covid-enforced 14-day quarantine on arrival in New Zealand.

Rizwan described Babar as Pakistan’s Kane Williamson, the New Zealand captain whose first-innings century laid the foundation for their 101-run victory in the first Test.

“He’s cleared but he wants to take some more time. If he plays he has a great impact on our team. Williamson batted very solid … Babar Azam has the same role in our team. The result may have been different if Babar was playing.”

In a tense finish, New Zealand won the first Test with 27 balls to spare and Williamson acknowledged Azam would have strengthened Pakistan.

“He’s one of the best players in the world. He obviously adds a lot,” Williamson said.

“We saw how challenging it is against this Pakistan side. You add Babar to that and it strengthens it.”

There is a lot at stake for New Zealand in the second Test where they need to win to have a chance of making the World Test Championship final at Lords in June.

New Zealand are vying with Australia, India and England to make the final two.

A draw or better will confirm New Zealand as number one in the world rankings, extend their unbeaten home record to 17 Tests and a win will see New Zealand win six consecutive Tests for the first time.

But Williamson, newly installed as the number one batsman in the world, said rankings and accolades were not a focus.

“You know these are very difficult things to control and these rankings sort of move every day,” Williamson said while adding there was something special about the current Black Caps squad.

“Looking back, we’re always been competitive at times but certainly not all the time and the team’s come a long way in terms of bringing an element of consistency.”

There were occasional showers disrupting practice in Christchurch on Saturday but the forecast is for fine weather throughout the Test.

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