The third and final Test between Pakistan and New Zealand – which is also the series decider – is still in the balance at stumps on day two at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The hosts will start the third day on 139/3, 135 runs adrift of the Black Caps' total.
Despite losing four wickets in the morning, New Zealand gained the upper hand in the first session of play. A resilient effort from BJ Watling – who faced 250 deliveries to score 77 runs – guided the visitors past 250 after finding themselves in a dire position on the first day.
The New Zealand wicket-keeper was ably assisted by the lower order. Debutant William Somerville lasted 99 deliveries, adding 45 runs with Watling for the eighth wicket. Bilal Asif was the pick of the Pakistan bowlers, claiming the remaining wickets to restrict the visitors to 274
However, Kane Williamson would have gone into the innings break as the happier captain, after his side added invaluable runs to their overnight total of 229/7. Trent Boult off the tenth delivery of the second innings, removing Mohammad Hafeez – who is set to hang up his boots after this Test – even before Pakistan got their first run on the board.
Hafeez's dismissal was the last bit of action before lunch, which subsequently meant that the hosts returned to the pavilion with a score of 0/1. Boult struck once again after lunch, as Imam ul-Haq edged his out-swinger to Tim Southee's safe pair of hands at second slip.
Just when it seemed like New Zealand was taking ascendancy in the match, Azhar Ali and Haris Sohail took a page out of Watling and Somerville's book, mitigating the situation with their watchful batting. They put up a crucial 68-run stand for the third wicket and navigated Pakistan without further hiccups till tea.
The momentum swung once again after tea, as it has so often in this Test already. Southee – who had held on to two catches in the slip in the second session – now claimed a scalp of his own. A length delivery, which was angled away from Sohail, extracted an outside edge off his slashing willow and nestled into the waiting hands of Watling behind the wicket.
Image: International Cricket Council (ICC)
The visitors were right back in the contest with that significant breakthrough in the fourth over after tea. However, Ali and Shafiq – the new batsman in – dug in thereafter, dropping the anchor in a display of pure Test batting to guide Pakistan through turbulent waters.
The duo put on an unbeaten 54-run stand which can be used by the hosts as a foundation to build on. With Ali batting on 62* and more firepower to come down the order, Pakistan will feel confident after the day's play.
However, the New Zealand bowlers – Boult in particular – have been very disciplined and difficult to negotiate in this Test. With the surface getting older as the Test progresses, the visitors will fancy a few wickets tomorrow, especially the spin duo of Ajaz Patel and William Somerville on a track that is taking a considerable amount of turn.
Scorecard: Day 2