Pakistan strike after NZ build lead cautiously

by Staff  •  Last updated on Thu, Jan 5, 2023,

Bowlers helped Pakistan claw their way back into the second Test with three key wickets in the afternoon session on Day 4 to reduce New Zealand to 151/4 by Tea. Their cautious play saw the visitors stretch their lead only to 192, largely due to the 109-run partnership for the second wicket between Tom Latham (62) and Kane Williamson (41).

After conceding a slender lead of 41 runs, Mir Hamza got an early breakthrough Pakistan needed when he struck with his very first delivery – a length ball that nipped back in slightly and ricocheted onto the stumps off Devon Conway’s pad. The in-form opener bagged a golden duck.

Abrar Ahmed then convinced Babar Azam to take two LBW appeals against Kane Williamson upstairs, which the Pakistan captain did, albeit reluctantly. Williamson, batting on 7 then, had nothing to worry since both were sliding down leg. He went on to become the fifth man, and first from New Zealand, to complete 7000 Test runs at no. 3 position upon reaching 14.

The pair steadily rebuilt after the early loss and a watchful start. Latham played a couple of delectable drives but was also lucky to fetch a couple of boundaries more with the edges harmlessly running past the slip and gully fielders. Hasan Ali fed Williamson a couple of short balls early into his spell, but the former captain pulled them away to the fence.

Closer to Lunch, Pakistan introduced spin from both ends but Agha Salman began with a couple of loose balls that were duly punished by Latham. On 36, he also got an LBW decision overturned with a review that found the impact to be outside off.

More DRS drama was in store on the other side of the session break even as Pakistan managed to turn the tables with three strikes in quick succession once New Zealand marched past the 100-run mark and Latham notched up his 25th Test fifty, the second of the match.

The pressure of having burnt a couple of their reviews early showed clearly when the hosts opted against getting one checked. Latham lucked out there, on 57, with replays confirming three reds much to the frustration of Babar and Abrar. However, the spinner pulled off a one-handed stunner at midwicket next over to send the batter back after adding just a boundary more to his tally.

Abrar finally got Alex Wharf to grant him the LBW dismissal of Williamson, which the batter reviewed this time. The ‘umpire’s call’ on the ball hitting the leg-stump played to the bowler’s advantage there and ensured the on-field decision was upheld. Williamson missed out on a half-century by nine as New Zealand lost both set batters in successive overs after a century stand. Wharf had also adjudged Tom Blundell LBW the very next ball but this time Abrar was disappointed once again with the review spotting a faint inside edge.

The two new batters made it to drinks alright but Pakistan had their tails up and then Hasan Ali helped them edge ahead with a third wicket in quick succession. Henry Nicholls, who used a first-ball review to overturn his caught-behind call, perished trying to pull across the line and ended up top-edging to the right of mid-off, where Babar pouched it safely.

Blundell and Michael Bracewell, who both got promoted in the batting order owing to Daryl Mitchell’s illness, saw the visitors through to Tea with a 23-run partnership even though the latter struggled a fair bit to pick Abrar. The legspinner could have had a second scalp to his name if not for a fumble from Sarfraz Ahmed behind the stumps that gave Blundell a reprieve on 21 in the final over before the break.

Earlier in the morning, it took only six balls for New Zealand to wrap up Pakistan’s first innings on 408 with Ish Sodhi trapping Abrar plumb in front to help his team start with a 41-run headstart.

Brief scores: New Zealand 449 & 151/4 (Tom Latham 62; Abrar Ahmed 1-51, Hasan Ali 1-27) lead Pakistan 408, by 192 runs.

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