Dubai - Pakistan is favored to capture its test series against New Zealand when it opens the second test Monday on another slow-turning wicket after its runaway 248-run victory in the first test.
Pakistan's once brittle top-order batting lineup has come together in recent weeks, with Younis Khan scoring four centuries in his last six test innings and captain Misbah-ul-Haq smashing three successive test centuries.
The only weak link before the start of the three-test series against New Zealand was the batting form of Mohammad Hafeez. But the opening batsman smashed 96 and 101 not out in the first test to quiet any doubts about his place in Pakistan's test lineup.
The inexperienced spin duo of Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah, meanwhile, played like veterans in the opening test at Abu Dhabi, capturing nine wickets between them. The haul came after the two shared 26 wickets two weeks ago in Pakistan's first test series win against Australia in 20 years.
"We don't want to give up on our good work because it can change really quickly in cricket," Misbah said after becoming Pakistan's most successful test captain with 15 victories in 32 matches. "You need to be focused and you need to do the things you are doing right."
Pakistan will be without in-form opener Ahmed Shehzad, whose skull was fractured when he was struck off a short pitched delivery by Corey Anderson during his career-best, eight-hour 176 against the Black Caps. He was ruled out of the last two test matches.
But the squad has strong backups in left-handed openers Taufiq Umar and Shan Masood to rely on.
While New Zealand seamers Trent Boult and Tim Southee bowled well in patches during the first test, they hardly looked capable of shutting down Pakistan's dominant batsmen. Pakistan racked up 741-5 in two innings, while the Black Caps were held to 262 and 231 by Pakistan's spinners and the reverse swing of left-arm fast bowler Rahat Ali.
"Obviously (Pakistan's) spinners are a major threat but so is the reverse swinging balls," New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said. "I'm confident we'll improve in a short span of time (and) probably we'll win the toss in the next game."
The toss has gone Misbah's way the last three test matches, and McCullum said he would like to see how Pakistan's batsmen play if his team wins the toss and puts runs on the board first.
Pakistan's batsmen have capitalized on the slow wickets in the United Arab Emirates with utmost perfection, scoring 13 centuries in their last three test matches. New Zealand coach Mike Hessen said his squad is struggling in the same way England, South Africa and Australia have in the past in the UAE.
"Pakistan knows these conditions well, they've performed very well in these conditions for a long time," he said.