On a day of ebb and flow that has been characteristic of this Test series in general, day one of the third Test saw New Zealand fight back from some early blows from Yasir Shah, only to be struck down by the rest of the Pakistani attack in third session, finishing the day on 229/7.
Kane Williamson won the toss an elected to bat, and a quick start from Jeet Raval and Tom Latham was derailed by a maiden Test wicket for Shaheen Afridi – the first of many one would presume. Getting one to cut back into the left-handed Latham’s front pad, Sarfraz Ahmed opted for a review after the hearty appeals of the Pakistanis were denied. The decision was vindicated, with the ball channelling towards the top of middle-stump, giving the home side an early breakthrough.
Raval and Williamson combined well to keep New Zealand ticking along smoothly until the thorn in their side, the man who tore them to shreds in Dubai, decided to spoil the party. The leg-spinner Yasir first had Raval depart for 45, trapping him in front of his stumps, before tearing through the defence of Ross Taylor first ball.
It was a case of déjà vu from the second Test, when Taylor had departed to his second delivery in the first-innings. How he must be sick of the sight of Yasir and his wizardly ways. Henry Nicholls was next to fall in Yasir’s trap, bowled around his legs for just one, as New Zealand concluded the morning session on 73/4.
Williamson and BJ Watling returned for the second session in a resilient mood, battling hard and scrapping for every run in the striking heat of Abu Dhabi. While the run-rate dropped significantly, it appeared that the Black Caps pair were ready to grind their way through the day – taking a leaf out of Pakistan’s book from the second Test.
The pair helped their side brave the Yasir storm to take New Zealand to 145/4 at tea. It seemed that Williamson was to reach another impeccable Test century, but Hasan Ali intervened in the third session, with Williamson clipping the ball to Asad Shafiq at short midwicket to fall for 89.
Yasir Shah took three wickets for Pakistan while Kane Williamson top-scored with 89 for his team. (Image: ICC)
Colin de Grandhomme entered the fray, and seemed to be in the mood for a shift in strategy, taking a more attacking approach. He deposited Yasir for six, before flicking Ali for four through the leg-side. It wasn’t to pay dividends however, as he guided a Bilal Asif delivery into the hands of leg-slip to finish his innings on 20 from 22 balls.
Tim Southee followed to give Asif his second wicket of the innings, top-edging a sweep to Babar Azam to leave New Zealand reeling for the second time in the day, positioned precariously on 209/7.
Nevertheless, debutant Will Somerville battled hard alongside the ever-patient Watling to help New Zealand reach stumps on 229/7. Watling will resume tomorrow morning on 42, compiled from 180 deliveries, an effort that has featured just one boundary.
While Yasir will be eyeing another five-wicket haul tomorrow morning – he collects them for a hobby – New Zealand’s lower order will look to squeeze out as many runs as they can, with both sides desperate to claim a series win.