New Zealand v Pakistan, 1st Test, Hamilton, 2nd day January 8, 2011

Taufeeq lauds Misbah and Shafiq

Pakistan opener Taufeeq Umar heaped praise on Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq who took Pakistan to a commanding 235 for 4 with an unbeaten 128-run stand. Pakistan were wobbling after having bowled New Zealand out for 275 in their first innings earlier, but Misbah and Shafiq ensured the visitors were in front at stumps on day two at Seddon Park, as they played out the initial tough period before the runs started flowing towards the end.

"Misbah and Asad played brilliantly, and because of that we are in the driving seat right now," Taufeeq said. "I think as a senior player, Misbah helped Asad along in the innings, and they really showed us how to bat on this wicket.

"The first target is 275, and then we can see from there. If Misbah and Asad continue to play well, we are looking at a lead of about 100."

Taufeeq believed the Pakistan bowlers should be given credit for keeping New Zealand down to 275 on a pitch he describes as "a paradise wicket for batsmen." Pakistan immediately ended the eighth-wicket partnership between Kane Williamson and Tim Southee which had frustrated them the previous evening, getting the breakthrough in the first over of the day when Southee was dismissed for 56.

"Last night Southee played well, but we came in with a plan this morning to bounce Southee out and to give [Williamson] the single, so we bowled really well." Both Willamson and Brent Arnel also fell to short deliveries soon after, as Pakistan wrapped up the innings with a barrage of hostile bouncers.

Taufeeq, who scored his first half-century since 2003 after an aggressive counterattack in the morning session said he never gave up hope on playing for Pakistan after a four year hiatus and a stint in the ICL. "I never thought my [career was over]. I had to come back, I always thought like that. I was training hard, and I stayed positive and I told myself I had to play for Pakistan again, which helped me a lot. "

New Zealand fast bowler Arnel was confident his side could regain control of the match by making early breakthroughs on day three to put Pakistan under pressure. Arnel was the best of the New Zealand bowlers on a tough day for them, picking up the wickets of Taufeeq and Younis Khan in the second session. "We're in a position now with the new ball coming up first thing in the morning," Arnel said. "If we can get a couple of early ones like they did this morning, we can get right into their tail. If we can set up the game that they might only be 20 or 30 ahead, then it's game on for us to bat big."

Arnel also said he enjoyed bowling in tandem with Northern Districts team-mate, Tim Southee as the pair tied Pakistan down after lunch. "If you check our history, we bowl together quite well. It was quite a good period for us and we got the reward. We were great in patches and showed signs of penetrating them quite well. If we can break the partnership as soon as possible tomorrow, one becomes two and hopefully becomes three and maybe we can knock off the tail."

Arnel defended the New Zealand attack who seemed to stray towards the pads, claiming it was part of their plan to bowl straighter, despite the ease with which the Pakistan batsmen played the ball off their legs, especially in the evening session.

"There were some plans in place with the ball tailing a wee bit, and we were trying to get them to work the straight ones and perhaps get an lbw. But sometimes your plans can backfire and it looks like you've bowled a bad ball. There were a few that were too straight."

There was also concern for Daniel Vettori, who battled illness throughout the day to deliver 22 miserly overs for 29 runs. Vettori had undergone blood tests in the morning to check for various illnesses, but remained on the field for all but 15 minutes of the Pakistan innings. Dave Currie, the New Zealand manager, was unable to confirm the exact nature of Vettori's malaise, stating that he had "a bit of a fever and was a little listless out in the field. Clearly he's not a million dollars, he's well enough, but we aren't sure what the problem is. He's had the blood tests and we'll have the results in a couple of days."

"He's a very tough guy," Arnel said. "Maybe a lot of other guys would be in their hotel room sleeping it off. He's a courageous leader and to be out there and bowling like that, it's magnificent."

Andrew Fernando writes for The Pigeon and blogs here