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Wednesday May 22, 2024

Sarfaraz hits 118 to save Test series

By Our Correspondent
January 07, 2023

KARACHI: Comeback veteran Sarfaraz Ahmed stood tall on Friday as he hit a career-best 118 to save the second Test as well as the two-match series against New Zealand at the National Stadium – his home ground.

Asked to chase 319 to the win the final Test and the series, Pakistan were in neck-deep trouble at 80-5 with a rampaging New Zealand attack gunning for the nation’s first Test series triumph on Pakistani soil in 53 years.

But Sarfaraz, who was sacked as captain and kept in Test wilderness for four years, put his fighting spirit on full display in front of cheering home fans as he played the lead role in a 123-run stand for the sixth wicket with Saud Shakeel (32). He also put on 70 runs for the seventh wicket with Agha Salman (30) to almost give Pakistan hopes of what could have been a stunning series-winning triumph.

But Sarfaraz wasn’t the only hero for Pakistan on the final day. With the likes of skipper Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq falling cheaply in the tense run-chase, Saud and Salman enabled Sarfaraz to hold fort and keep New Zealand at bay. But perhaps a bigger contribution came from Naseem Shah (15) and Abrar Ahmed (7) – the No.10 and No.11 batters for Pakistan – as the two survived 21 deliveries in fading light with all eleven New Zealand players circling the bat. In the end it was bad light that had the last laugh as umpires Alex Wharf and Aleem Dar removed the bails with Pakistan at 304-9, 15 runs short of the victory target. It was Sarfaraz's day, perhaps one of his best days on a cricket field. He batted for almost five hours, faced 176 balls hitting nine fours and a six to underline the fact that even at 35 he is one of the most reliable batters in Pakistan’s otherwise brittle middle-order.

Sarfaraz planned his innings perfectly. He came on the crease following a flurry of wickets and managed to rebuild the innings together with Saud. Then after tea, with Pakistan at 179-5 and needing 140 from 31 overs, he accelerated and went after off-spinner Michael Bracewell, New Zealand’s most successful bowler with 4-75, hitting him for three fours and six before taking a double off Matt Henry to complete his fourth Test hundred and the first in eight years. He was adjudged Player of the Match and also Player of the Series having piled up 335 runs at 83.75 from two Tests with three fifties and a hundred.

New Zealand took the second new ball and with the fourth delivery Tim Southee dismissed Agha Salman for 30 to break a 70-run stand for the seventh wicket before Bracewell dismissed Sarfaraz to raise hopes of a win. But once Pakistan lost Sarfaraz, Hasan Ali (five) and Salman in the space of 14 runs, the target went out of reach. The previous best winning chase in a Test in Pakistan was 314 by the home team against Australia in Karachi in 1994.

Spinner Michael Bracewell (4-75) and Ish Sodhi (2-59) jolted Pakistan earlier with three wickets in the first session.

Resuming two down without any runs on the board, Pakistan lost Imam-ul-Haq (12), skipper Babar Azam (27) and Shan Masood (35) before reaching three figures.

Imam fell to a rash drive off Sodhi as the ball spun in and crashed onto the stumps.

Azam and Masood then put on 42 runs and were looking solid when Bracewell came into the act.

He first removed Azam with a sharp turning delivery that was edged to wicketkeeper Tom Latham, while Masood miscued a lofted shot and was caught by Kane Williamson at mid-off.

Score Board

New Zealand won the toss

New Zealand 1st Innings 449

Pakistan 1st Innings 408

New Zealand 2nd Innings 277/5d

Pakistan 2nd Innings

Abdullah b Southee 0

Imam b Sodhi 12

Mir Hamza b Sodhi 0

Masood c Williamson b Bracewell 35

Babar (c) c †Latham b Bracewell 27

Sarfaraz † c Kane b Bracewell 118

Saud c Mitchell b Bracewell 32

Agha b Henry 30

Hasan lbw b Southee 5

Naseem not out 15

Abrar Ahmed not out 7

Extras: (b 16, lb 5, w 2) 23

Total: 90 Ov 304/9

Fall: 1-0, 2-0, 3-35, 4-77, 5-80,

6-203, 7-273, 8-282, 9-287

Bowling: Tim Southee 20-7-43-2, Matt Henry 21-3-69-1, Ish Sodhi 18-2-59-2, Michael Bracewell 20-2-75-4, Ajaz Patel 7-1-32-0, Daryl Mitchell 4-2-5-0

Match result: Match drawn

Player of the match: Sarfaraz Ahmed

Player of the series: Sarfaraz Ahmed

Umpires: Aleem Dar, Alex Wharf