Hasan Ali and Yasir Shah bowl Pakistan into winning position against New Zealand
Barring something extraordinary, Pakistan on 37-0 in pursuit of 176-run target, is all poised to go one up on the 4th day, in the opening Test in Abu Dhabi.
But knowing Pakistan, the most excitable and unpredictable cricket nation, anything can happen and its progress will be followed, with one eye on its poor history. Its two openers – Imam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Hafeez – have not looked in too much trouble whilst providing a good positive start, but the real test, we all know, will be against slow bowlers.
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 37-0
At the Close of Play - Pakistan need 139 runs to win
New Zealand started the third day to consolidate its position in the first Test at Abu Dhabi. The knowledge of having won all three previous Tests, between the two countries and Pakistan’s poor fourth-innings record, surely adding strength to its resolve. At this very venue, Pakistan, last year, failed to get 136 runs in the fourth-innings against Sri Lanka, after both teams had scored 400plus For Pakistan supporters any target beyond 150plus would be tricky to say the least.
On day 3, the Pakistan bowlers’ attempts for an early breakthrough were not successful but pressure remained on New Zealand batsmen. It was Yasir Shah who produced a beautiful leg-break that passed Kane Williamson’s outside edge and dislodged the off bail. Taylor took three boundaries in one over from Yasir but was trapped leg-before by Hasan Ali, who in the same over also accounted for Jeet Raval, who had batted so resolutely for three hours. The left-handed opener, one of three players of Indian origin in the New Zealand line-up, illustrating the migration pattern, in the 21st century. Lunch was taken at 134-4, with New Zealand lead now on 60.
In the second session, New Zealand did not lose a wicket and the partnership of Henry Nicholls and wicket-keeper B.J. Watling added 66 runs in two hours of gripping cricket. The 5th wicket pair took New Zealand lead beyond 100 mark and looked determined to double it by the close of play. At tea, the score had moved to 200-4 with the tourists now ahead with 127 runs and new ball due immediately and duly claimed by Sarfraz Ahmed.
As so often in UAE, it was Yasir Shah who creates drama with his fizzing wrist spin. He finally broke the 6th wicket stand that had fought so gallantly for 50.5 overs and quickly followed by sending back another three to the pavilion. Amongst his victims were Nicholls (55) and Watling (59), the two men who had frustrated Pakistan whilst adding 112 runs together. Just when the Pakistan camp was getting nervous at the prospect of a game slipping away, its ace leg-spinner came up with triumphs. His four-wicket burst in as many overs turned the game on its head as he finished with 5-110. The last six wickets falling for 29 runs as Hasan Ali (5-45) picked up his maiden five-wicket Test haul, leaving Pakistan 176 to win a Test match.
Pakistan - Mohammad Hafeez, Imam ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed(c)(wk), Bilal Asif, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali
New Zealand - Jeet Raval, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson(c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling(wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Ish Sodhi, Neil Wagner, Ajaz Patel, Trent Boult
©Cricket World 2018