KARACHI: The ‘Bazball’ mayhem is over and Test cricket in Pakistan has returned to normalcy. But the hosts continue to play catch up – this time against New Zealand – after the touring openers piled up a record partnership on the second day of the first Test here at the National Stadium on Tuesday.
It was supposed to be Agha Salman’s day as the middle-order batter, batting at No.7, hit his maiden Test ton to propel Pakistan to a healthy first innings total of 438. But on a slow and flat wicket, New Zealand responded solidly as openers Devon Conway and Tom Latham proved too good for a seemingly toothless Pakistan attack, putting on an unbeaten stand of 165.
New Zealand are now trailing by 273 and must be hoping to pile up a big first innings total in a bid to put the hosts under pressure. There were little signs on Tuesday that the Pakistani attack, devoid of many wicket-takers, would be able to stop New Zealand from taking control of the series opener.
The only chance they created of breaking the opening partnership came in the 31st over when Conway inside-edged a delivery from spinner Nauman Ali through Sarfaraz Ahmed behind the stumps. Pakistan’s half-hearted appeal was turned down by umpire Aleem Dar. The hosts decided against reviewing it. It turned out to be a bad call as TV replays showed clear evidence that Conway had nicked the ball. By then the duo had added 105 runs.
By stumps, New Zealand had progressed to 165 with Conway unbeaten at 82 and Latham batting at 78.
In the process Conway became the fastest batter from his country to complete 1000 runs in his 11th Test surpassing John Reid, who had reached this milestone in 12 Tests back in 1985. The 165-run partnership is New Zealand’s highest opening stand in Tests in Pakistan. The previous best stand of 136 was set way back in 1965.
Together, the two blunted the Pakistani attack that included leggie Abrar Ahmed, who recently made a successful Test debut against England.
Abrar was unable to get the much-needed breakthrough finishing the day with 0-57 from 17 overs. Nauman finished with 0-37 from 11 overs. Debutant pacer Mir Hamza gave away 23 from his 7 overs while Muhammad Waseem Jr finished with 0-32 from his nine.
With Agha Salman, Pakistan’s fifth bowler, feeling unwell, skipper Babar Azam wasn’t left with many options. He decided to have a go at New Zealand himself, bowling three overs for 11.
If today’s display was any yardstick, then it seems that Pakistan will find it tough to take the 20 New Zealand wickets they need to turn the tide that has seen them losing four home Tests in row for the first time in history.
For them the only reason to cheer about on Tuesday was Salman’s heroics with the bat. Under criticism for his below par showing against England, Salman took charge after Babar fell to the pace of his New Zealand counterpart Tim Southee in the very first over and without adding to his overnight 161. He scored 103 from just 155 balls with 17 boundaries. Salman was the reason why Pakistan were able to stretch their total to 438 as he scored 99 of the 120 runs fetched by Pakistan’s last four wickets. He played the lead role in a series of partnerships – 54 with Nauman, 39 with Hamza and 24 with Abrar.
Earlier, Southee forced an edge off Azam’s bat to wicketkeeper Tom Blundell to give a kickstart to New Zealand. Babar struck 16 boundaries and a six in his 365-minute knock. Pakistan also lost Nauman (seven) and Mohammad Wasim (two) in the first session, which produced just 60 runs.
Salman added 54 runs for the seventh wicket before New Zealand took two wickets in the space of three runs.
Southee, who finished with 3-69, finally ended the innings by trapping Salman leg before, completing 350 wickets in his 89th Test.
He is the third New Zealand bowler behind Richard Hadlee (431 in 86 Tests) and Daniel Vettori (362 in 113) to take 350 or more wickets in Tests.
Pakistan won the toss
Pakistan 1st Innings
Shafique st †Blundell b Patel 7
Imam c Southee b Bracewell 24
Masood st †Blundell b Bracewell 3
Babar(c)c †Blundell b Southee 161
Shakeel c Nicholls b Southee 22
Ahmed †c Mitchell b Patel 86
Salman lbw b Southee 103
Ali c Bracewell b Wagner 7
Wasim c †Blundell b Sodhi 2
Hamza lbw b Sodhi 1
Ahmed not out 6
Extras: (b 3, lb 10, nb 2, w 1) 16
Total:130.5 Ov 438
Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-19, 3-48, 4-110, 5-306, 6-318, 7-372, 8-375, 9-414, 10-438
Bowling: Southee 25.5-4-69-3, Wagner 21-2-66-1, Patel 36-6-112-2, Bracewell 24-6-72-2, Sodhi 21-0-87-2, Mitchell 3-0-19-0
New Zealand 1st Innings
Latham not out 78
Conway not out 82
Extras:(b 4, lb 1) 5
Total: 47 Ov 165
Still to bat: Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls,Daryl Mitchell, Tom Blundell †, Michael Bracewell, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee (c), Neil Wagner, Ajaz Patel
Bowling: Hamza 7-1-23-0, Wasim 9-2-32-0, Ahmed 17-3-57-0, Ali 11-1-37-0, Azam 3-0-11-0
Umpires: Aleem Dar, Alex Wharf
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