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Dream debut for Ajaz Patel as Pakistan crumble once again in 1st Test

KS Williamson
Kane Williamson steered New Zealand to a thrilling win in 1st Test
©REUTERS/Paul Childs
 

New Zealand stunned its hosts by snatching a thrilling 4-run victory in the Test match, in Abu Dhabi. Its hero on the final day was Ajaz Patel, slow left-arm spinner, winning the Man of the Match Award, after claiming 5 for 59, plus a hand in the crucial run out of Babar Azam.

Match Summary

New Zealand 153 (Kane Williamson 63; Yasir Shah 3-54, Mohammad Abbas 2-13, Haris Sohail 2-11) and 249 (BJ Watling 59, Henry Nicholls 55; Yasir Shah 5-110, Hasan Ali 5-45)

Pakistan 227 (Babar Azam 62; Trent Boult 4-54) and 171 (Azhar Ali 65; Ajaz Patel 5-59)

Result - New Zealand won by 4 runs

Scorecard

A 13-over spell of pace by Neil Wagner, also left-arm, was a perfect foil for Patel as he picked the all-important wicket of Asad Shafiq (45), just prior to lunch. It turned out to be a point where Pakistan batting line-up entered the ‘panic zone’ to lose 7 wickets for 41 runs and snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory, in the manner that has become its trademark.

Eight of the eleven Pakistan players, had featured in a 136-run chase that went horrifically wrong, in the last year Test against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi. It started the 4th morning, requiring additional 136 runs with all 10 wickets in hand. A Pakistan fourth-innings run-chase has always been a talking point, over the years, for even when successful on occasions, it almost inevitably contains a wobble. It is the nervous energy and eagerness to show off and finish off a Test match that leads to schoolboy mistakes. Apart from an 82-run stand in the middle of the innings, it was classic Pakistan, sweaty palms, poor shot selection.  One would be lost for words to quantify the frustration of the coaches and management in the Pakistan dug out in Abu Dhabi, so often the focus of the TV camera crew.  

The New Zealand camp having done their homework and sticking to the basics were quickly among the wickets, through its spinners. After Patel had trapped Imam-ul-Haq leg-before playing back, both Mohammed Hafeez and Haris Sohail spooned catches, playing casual strokes to Ish Sodhi. Three wickets for 8 runs and New Zealand were right on top. Luckily for Pakistan, it brought its two most experienced batsmen – Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq – at the crease. Showing positive intent and decisive footwork they refused to bog down and added 82 runs in calm sensible manner. With only 46 runs to win and seven wickets in hand, Pakistan was surely home and dry, one would have thought.

By removing Asad, caught behind, at the stroke of lunch, Wagner gave his side hope and they returned to the ground after the break, determined to make Pakistan work hard for the victory. In the post lunch session, Babar (needless run out), Sarfraz Ahmed (sweeping) and Bilal Asif (wild slog) were all victims of  brainless cricket. Yasir Shah’s dismissal added to the drama with Pakistan still 21 run short of the victory. Nail-biting stuff. Calculated risks were taken in these nerve-wrecking moments but Hasan Ali expired to an ill-advised big shot, caught in the deep, of the last ball of an over. Odds now heavily in favour of the tourists as they huddled for a well-deserved drink break, one wicket away from a famous victory. 

New Zealand had picked up 4 wickets for 8 runs and its captain Kane Williamson maximising the pressure by constantly working on field positioning and slowing down the game. He continued to offer Azhar singles and manage to dismiss three tail-enders for ducks. By the time No.11 Mohammad Abbas, stepped out, a low-scoring thriller had turned into a game of chess, with Pakistan still 12 runs away from the finish line. Azhar, still defiant but with the last man in, was running out of options. Having lost a number of partners, playing rash strokes, he wisely chose to do it in ones but had to refuse number of singles in order to keep away Abbas from strike. His dismissal, after having battled hard for his 65 off 135 balls, leg-before to Patel, brought an end to a tension-packed drama of Test cricket.

A memorable day of cricket but the end result, adding to the woes of Sarfraz Ahmed, who threw away an opportunity to silence the critics of his command as a Test match captain.

40 Years Ago Today - A Triumph in Karachi - 19th  November, 1978

On a day like this Pakistan cricket supporters need cheering up and for that, one had no option but to delve into the archives. 40 years to this day – 19t November, 1978 – Pakistan cricket fans were treated to the art of run-chase, against the clock. A full house at National Stadium, Karachi and millions all around the country glued to their TV sets on a Sunday, celebrated an eight-wicket win against India, through  two of its finest middle-order batsmen.

The highlight of the 97-run 2nd-wicket stand between Asif Iqbal and Javed Miandad was the frenetic running between the wickets, not witnessed before in Pakistan. With 6-7 Indian fielders guarding the boundary, it required nimble feet to steal singles out of nothing and turn ones into twos. Asif, 14 years senior to Miandad, was equal to the task and matched his younger partner in keeping up with the required rate. The Indian bowlers and fielders were put under tremendous pressure as Pakistan pair made them pay for each fumble or mis-field by running cheeky singles and in fact stealing runs. A delightful exhibition of batting and a template for future generations, which sadly is not on the YouTube.

Not every captain in the world would have dared to go for quite an improbable target, especially when already one-up in the Test series. Fortunately for Pakistan, its captain Mushtaq Mohammed, had the right attitude and enough confidence in his side to achieve a target of 164 in 26 overs. The experienced gained by Pakistan players in English county cricket had sharpened their skills and they were far ahead of their Indian counterparts.  

The excitement created by last-day run chases and enthusiastic crowd participation against the 1978-79 Indian team first at Lahore and now in Karachi, triggered new era of Pakistan cricket. It also planted a seed for a limited-overs tournament at the domestic level in the mind of Taher Memon, of Pakistan Tobacco Company with management of sponsorship deals with the cricket Board. The launch of 45-over Wills Cup in 1981 not only brought the crowd to the stadium, it also increased the popularity of the game in the country and paved the way for Pakistan’s great surge, as the top-ranking cricket nation in the 1980s and 1990s.

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