Misbah-ul-Haq believes Pakistan will rise to the occasion in the first Test against New Zealand despite the absence of captain Babar Azam and opener Imam-ul-Haq. 

Both players suffered fractured thumbs during training sessions in Queenstown last week and are yet to return to practice. 

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) confirmed on Monday that the duo could return for the second Test, which begins in Christchurch on January 3. 

They will, however, sit out the opener in Mount Maunganui, with Imran Butt added to the 17-man squad and Mohammad Rizwan confirmed as the 33rd captain to lead the team in the longest format. 

The first Test begins on Boxing Day, three days after the final Twenty20 international, with the hosts already 2-0 ahead in that series. 

“It is disappointing to lose the T20I series against a well-settled New Zealand side, who utilised their resources and conditions to their advantage,” head coach Misbah said. 

“We need to up-skill and improve our individual and team performances, including in Tuesday’s match, and the sooner we get these sorted the better it will be in term of player confidence and team results as 2021 will not be any easier as we have two major events. 

“Contrary to the T20I side, the Test side appears to be pretty organised and we boast some experienced cricketers, both in the batting and bowling departments. With some competitive cricket on the tour now under the belt, I am hoping we will be a better outfit in the longer version of the game. 

“Although it will be nearly two weeks to Babar’s injury when the first Test starts, it will be hard on him and the team to play him without any net sessions.  

I remain confident and optimistic that other players will rise to the occasion in Mount Maunganui and use the opportunity to rise to the occasion and put the disappointment of the T20I series behind them.”

Pakistan squad for Tests: Mohammad Rizwan (captain for first Test), Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan, Yasir Shah (Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq not available for first Test).