New Zealand 274 (Kane Williamson 89, Jeet Raval 45, BJ Watling 77*; Yasir Shah 3-75, Bilal Asif 5-65) and 26-2
Pakistan 348 (Azhar Ali 134, William Somerville 104; Trent Boult 2-66, William Somerville 4-75)
Close of Play - New Zealand trail Pakistan by 48 runs with 8 wickets remaining
Pakistan - Imam ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed(c)(wk), Bilal Asif, Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi
New Zealand - Jeet Raval, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson(c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling(wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Ajaz Patel, William Somerville, Trent Boult
Pakistan, under Sarfraz Ahmed and in fact under Misbah-ul-Haq too, has repeatedly snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. Given New Zealand’s capacity to fight all the way, Pakistan shall stay vary of what opposition is capable of. The ‘home’ team might be considered, ahead on points, having claimed two second-innings wickets before close, but by no means are outright favourites to win.
The painstaking 201-run 4th wicket stand between Azhar Ali (134) and Asad Shafiq (104), two of Pakistan’s premier batsmen, was a template that needs to be carried, all around the world by the team management. Having arrived on the second afternoon, with Pakistan 85-3 and still way behind New Zealand’s first innings total of 274, both entrenched themselves against a disciplined bowling attack. It was a test of their defensive techniques, honed on UAE wickets and of their hunger and desire to rise above the rest of the teammates. Azhar and Asad are only picked for Test cricket and thankfully do get reasonable length of break between international engagements.
The two batsmen resumed on 139 for 3 and successfully negotiated the pre-lunch session by adding 85 runs. They saw off the second new ball, claimed straight away after 80 overs by Kane Williamson, largely through poor line employed by two experienced Kiwis pacemen – Tim Southee and Trent Boult. Azhar brought up his 15th Test hundred, his first since May 2017 and quickly took a fresh guard. On the other end Asad too was happy to grind and wear down the opposition. Azhar was finally dismissed, sweeping, having batted over six hours, faced 297 balls and hit 12 fours. Shortly after reaching his 12th Test hundred, Asad was fifth out at 304, having batted for over five hours, faced 259 balls and 14 boundaries to his name.
The departure of the two century makers within 7overs, before the tea break, was followed by some pretty ordinary cricket from the lower middle order and the tail. One can say it was typical Pakistan, for not capitalizing on the hard work of the top order. New Zealand bowlers, now rejuvenated, bounced back impressively in claiming last 7 wickets for just 62 runs. Pakistan realistically eyeing 100 plus first innings lead had to be content with 74, following an impressive spell of off-spin by debutante William Somerville, who ended with 4-75.
New Zealand, with both openers out, are 26-2 in its second innings, still 48 runs adrift, will look to its captain Williamson and the middle order to drag itself back into contention. They need to score another two hundred runs to put pressure on Pakistan’s notoriously nervous batting line-up, in the fourth innings of the Test. You can bet, Yasir Shah only one wicket away from 200 wickets, will be eagerly waiting for the action to resume on the fourth morning of the deciding Test.
©Cricket World 2018