Pakistan salvage thrilling draw on the back of Sarfaraz’s 117

by Staff  •  Last updated on Fri, Jan 6, 2023, 

Under fading light, Pakistan managed to hang in for a draw by the barest of margins to deny New Zealand a series win. Pakistan’s hero of the day was Sarfaraz Ahmed who scored his fourth Test ton, but after he fell for 118 with 40 balls left in the day, New Zealand were back on top.

However, the last wicket pair of Naseem Shah and Abrar Ahmed saw off 21 balls before play was called off due to bad light, ensuring that the series ended in parity. New Zealand’s victory bid after Sarfaraz was caught smartly at leg slip by Kane Williamson off Micheal Bracewell, involved a lot of spin as the light became too poor for fast bowling. It resulted in ten men surrounding the bat, but Naseem Shah managed to spread that out with a six and a four before play was called off.

Pakistan had gone into the final session needing 120 runs with five wickets in hand. Sarfaraz’s smartly-paced knock was complemented by a patient one from Saud Shakeel to shore up a wobbling innings. But their steady stand being broken early in the third session opened the door again for New Zealand.

Shakeel had got 32 off 146 and was along with Sarfaraz for 260 balls in a defiant stand but fell with 25 overs left in the day and Pakistan needing 116 more to win. His dismissal came just as he had started to try and put the pressure back on the bowler. Having lofted Bracewell for a boundary over cover, he tried a late cut which was snapped by Daryl Mitchell at slip.

Sarfaraz then had the company of Agha Salman for 83 balls where the pressure was once again reversed with 70 runs being added and Pakistan threatening to complete an improbable chase of 119. But Salman’s vigil ended when he missed one from Matt Henry that shot down low and nipped in as well, being bowled for 30. Three overs later Hassan Ali fell to a similar delivery from Tim Southee as New Zealand punched back, in line with how the day had progressed up until then.

The first punch of the day was landed by New Zealand’s spinners as they made big inroads in the first session of the final morning, picking three big wickets even as Pakistan attempted to go for quick runs.

Set a target of 319, Pakistan began the day on 0/2 and lost their first wicket when Imam ul Haq tried to force the pace against Ish Sodhi. While he danced down the track to try and hit Sodhi off the rough, he ended up missing and the ball turned in to hit the stumps. At 35/3, Pakistan were in a spot of bother straightaway.

But Shan Masood and Babar Azam kept the momentum up, with the skipper hitting five boundaries in his 27 while Masood was the quieter of the two. Just as the partnership was budding though, Babar fell against the run of play.

Michael Bracewell had the skipper getting a thin edge while trying to glance a ball and was smartly caught by Tom Blundell down the legside. One led to two as Masood too fell in Bracewell’s next over, chipping an attempted loft and holing out tamely to mid off.

Pakistan then hit back in the second session with a stoic partnership. Shakeel and Sarfaraz batted through to frustrate New Zealand just as they had managed to do in the first innings. Sarfaraz, with his fourth half-century in as many innings on comeback, was the aggressor in the stand, with the sweep shot being a strong ally once again.

It was with that shot that he brought up a boundary to ring in his 22nd Test fifty as well, even as Shakeel remained steadfast as ever to blunt New Zealand from the other end. Shakeel ate up 129 balls for 27, and together the duo saw off 225 balls that helped stall New Zealand’s victory bid which had gained credence after the first session.

Sarfaraz motored along at a steady clip to finally notch up a ton that had him punching the ground in elation, completing what had been an extraordinary comeback series for him personally and was named the Man of the Match and the series. His joy could have turned sour soon after however, when was the ninth wicket to fall after battling a bout of cramps. But the last wicket pair, and the fading light ensured that his heroics did not go in vain.

Brief Scores:New Zealand 449 (Devon Conway 122, Tom Latham 71, Matt Henry 68, Tom Blundell 51) & 277/5 (Michael Bracewell 74*, Tom Blundell 74. Tom Latham 62) drew with Pakistan 408 all out (Saud Shakeel 125, Sarfaraz Ahmed 78, Imam ul Haq 83) & 304/9 (Sarfaraz Ahmed 117; Micheal Bracewell 4-75).

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