DUBAI: Pakistan’s hopes of gaining a morale boosting one day series win over New Zealand ahead of the World Cup next year have been hurt by yesterday’s announcement that Mohammad Hafeez has been suspended from bowling because of an illegal action. The 34-year-old-who joins top Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal in being suspended for the same offence-will still be able to bat in the five-match one-day series which begins in Dubai today.

However, he gives Pakistan an option of an extra bowler and his suspension will badly hurt the team’s preparations for next year’s World Cup. “It’s a setback for us,” said team manager and chief selector Moin Khan after Hafeez was suspended by the International Cricket Council. “Hafeez’s suspension can affect our preparations for the World Cup but we have no doubt over his ability as a batsman and he will play today.” Both the teams will remain focused on the World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand in February-March. The series promises to be a keenlyfought contest after they ended honours even in both the three-Test series and the two-match Twenty20.

Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul Haq admitted his team can build confidence and momentum. “This is one of our last chances before the World Cup, to look how we will go into the World Cup so the focus is on that,” said Misbah on Saturday. “Pitches are different here (from Australia and New Zealandwhere the World Cup is being hosted) but I still think the confidence and the momentum of this series will help us and it will not matter even if we are playing on different pitches here.” Pakistan have recalled experienced batsman Younis Khan after dropping him from the three-match one-day series against Australia which they lost 3-0 in October-also played in the United Arab Emirates.

Misbah believes Younis will provide valuable experience. “His experience will help us,” said Misbah, also hinting Pakistan will go with a specialist opening pair instead of using wicket-keeper batsman Sarfraz Ahmed at the top of the order. “We want to go in with genuine openers and want the first four batsmen settled before going to the World Cup. “New Zealand have adaptability and they have allrounders and good spinners who can win matches for their team,” said Misbah.

New Zealand’s stand-in captain Kane Williamson-Brendon McCullum left after the Tests to prepare for the home series against Sri Lanka-said Pakistan remain a dangerous side even without Ajmal. “We know it ’s a big challenge because Pakistan play well here, they have depth and even without Ajmal whichever side they put out is strong,” said Williamson. New Zealand play two Tests and seven one-day internationals against Sri Lanka starting later this month. “There is so much cricket before the World Cup and this series is the focus but we are conscious of the big event,” said Williamson. All-rounder Corey Anderson will return after missing the second Twenty20 as a precautionary measure after being hit by a bouncer in the first Twenty20 on Thursday, but opener Martin Guptill is still being monitored for a tight hamstring. The remaining oneday matches will be played in Sharjah (December 12 and 14) and Abu Dhabi (December 17 and 19). —AFP