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NZ must play with more freedom: Williamson

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 16/11/2016 Daniel Gilhooly

<span style="font-size:13px;">Brendon McCullum's sizzling 145 the last time New Zealand played at Hagley Oval is held up as a beacon by his successor captain Kane Williamson.</span> © Getty Brendon McCullum's sizzling 145 the last time New Zealand played at Hagley Oval is held up as a beacon by his successor captain Kane Williamson. Skipper Kane Williamson is channelling the spirit of his predecessor Brendon McCullum, asking his New Zealand team to play with freedom against Pakistan to emerge from their Test slump.

Williamson says McCullum's swashbuckling century against Australia in his final Test in February showcases the sort of attitude the Black Caps must adopt in the two-match series.

The first Test at Hagley Oval starting on Thursday is the first at the Christchurch venue since McCullum's scorching rearguard, a memorable 145 from 79 balls which rescued New Zealand from a calamitous start to the first day.

Williamson was one of four batsmen to fall in the opening session as Australia exploited seaming conditions, reaching seven off 69 balls.

"That was my plan, and Brendon's was the complete opposite," he said.

"I thought it was a great example of someone playing with freedom. That can come with the confidence of knowing your own conditions."

There are few batsmen with the eye of retired skipper McCullum and Williamson isn't asking his players to throw their bat at what will be a demanding Pakistan attack.

However, defeats in South Africa and India leaves Williamson's men in need of a positive mindset if they are to overcome a side who climbed to the summit of the world rankings this year and are currently second behind India.

"Coming off the back of losses is never nice. It can be in the back of your mind a little bit and that's the challenge," he said.

"It's important that we come back here and express our skills. When we do, we play our best cricket."

Williamson, in his first Test as skipper on home soil, wants to lead New Zealand to their first series win over Pakistan in 40 years.

However, the tourists are coming off a 2-1 home series win over the West Indies and haven't been toppled in their last seven series. On the road, they have beaten Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and drew 2-2 in England this year.

They have a battery of proven pacemen, complemented by potent legspinner Yasir Shah, while 42-year-old skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and 38-year-old Younis Khan anchor their batting.

Younis needs 337 runs to become the 13th player, and the first Pakistani, to score 10,000 Test runs.

"They provide a stiff challenge but that makes it exciting for us to come up against a strong side like Pakistan in our conditions," Williamson said.

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