Shakeel, Sarfaraz lead Pakistan’s strong reply

by Staff •  Published on Wed, Jan 4, 2023, 

Saud Shakeel’s maiden Test ton and his partnership of 150 with a sprightly Sarfaraz Ahmed helped Pakistan mount a strong reply to New Zealand’s 449. But the visitors bounced back with late strikes as Pakistan lost four wickets for 12 runs even as Shakeel remaineed unbeaten on 124.

The final session finished in contrast to the rest of the day where Pakistan’s batters had shown a lot of resilience. The middle session where runs flowed for Pakistan, powered by the Sarfaraz-Shakeel partnership, was bookended by periods of graft that saw them make steady progress without moving into a dominant position. The final session saw Shakeel go back to his defensive mode as he also put on a 53-run stand off 150 balls with Agha Salman that helped delay the entry of the lower-order. It also enabled Pakistan to chip away at the deficit, inching closer and closer to New Zealand’s total.

It was only after the departure of Salman, caught smartly at slip off Ajaz Patel, that Shakeel began to raise his tempo once more, with a loft over cover off Daryl Mitchell signaling his intentions,and later lofting Ajaz for a boundary. But in all, he added only 23 runs for himself in a session after being dropped on 102 by Tom Latham at cover point off Tim Southee. Salman’s departure also saw Pakistan’s lower order crumble with Hassan Ali holing out to deep midwicket while Ish Sodhi struck off consecutive balls to get Naseem Shah and Mir Hamza bowled.

Shakeel helped Pakistan past the 400-run mark eventually, a mark they were set to scale with ease at one point in the day. When Shakeel was partnering Sarfaraz, the duo paced their partnership to perfection, preferring to steady the innings in the first session and then target the run-rate in the second. It was a ploy that worked to near perfection right through. But just as they threatened to shut the door on New Zealand, the visitors found a way through against the run of play.

Minutes short of the Tea interval, Daryl Mitchell found the golden touch with the ball, shaping it in. He had an LBW call against Sarfaraz upheld onfield, only for DRS to confirm that the batter had got an inside edge. But soon after, Mitchell had his man albeit through an unforced error. Sarfaraz missed a glance and overbalanced, but Blundell standing up to the stumps got the bails out just as the foot was lifted. Sarfaraz fel for 78, his third fifty on the trot on comeback and played a key hand in reviving Pakistan’s innings in the company of a resolute Shakeel, who had taken over the role of lynchpin from Imam ul Haq.

Imam added only 9 to his overnight score before he got a bottom edge while trying to cut Tim Southee. New Zealand managed to end the 83-run stand with the help of DRS. But Imam’s partner through that resolute stand, Saud Shakeel continued on from where he left off.

Showing tremendous patience, Shakeel made his way to an unbeaten 101 punctuated with sweeps off all kinds, from the lap to the slog, that fetched him boundaries in an otherwise dogged knock that ate up 242 balls in all. Having started with predominantly defence, Shakeel opened up in the second session hitting ten boundaries as Pakistan aimed to dominate.

Complementing the stoic Shakeel was Sarfaraz Ahmed with a proactive innings. A couple of boundaries as the pacers erred in length allowed him to get the strike-rate up, apart from remaining busy with the singles. Hed followed his quick start bby switching up gearby attacking the spinners right through.

New Zealand lost the reverse swing on offer when the ball had to be changed due to a split seam and were made to toil in the latter half of the session and even lost an LBW reviews against Shakeel in desperation as Pakistan chipped away at the deficit. The second new ball only helped Pakistan’s cause for quick runs. However, just as they were set to go into the offensive, New Zealand managed to pull things back.

Brief ScoresNew Zealand 449 (Devon Conway 122, Tom Latham 71, Matt Henry 68*, Tom Blundell 51; Abrar Ahmed 4-149) lead Pakistan 407/9 (Imam ul Haq 83, Saud Shakeel 124*, Sarfarz Ahmed 78; Ajaz Patel 4-88) by 47 runs

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