The Pakistani test-cricket juggernaut looks unstoppable. As if to prove that their victory against Australia was no fluke, Pakistan steamrolled New Zealand in the first test at Abu Dhabi. They played such authoritative game that the Kiwis were not allowed any respite from start to finish. From mounting a first innings score of 566/3, they dictated terms with their bowling and had the match under total control. New Zealand could only derive solace for taking the game to the fifth day by the last-wicket stand of 54 runs between Sodhi and Boult. Three Pakistan batsmen scored centuries in the first innings and two missed the mark narrowly. Mohammad Hafiz, who was unlucky to miss his first innings hundred by four runs, made up by scoring the ton in Pakistan’s second innings. Rahat Ali, Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah shared 15 match-wickets among themselves and made scoring difficult for New Zealand in both innings. Once Pakistan pushed New Zealand into a corner on the first day, Kiwis found no escape for recovery until the last day. It was a commanding performance from a team, whom many had written off a few months ago. Younis Khna notched up another century to take his tally to four hundreds in three games. Skipper, Misbah-ul-Haq achieved a personal landmark by leading his team to 15 victories and becoming Pakistan’s most successful test captain ever, after overtaking the feats of Imran Khan and Javed Miandad.
Winning the toss, Pakistan elected to bat first and having played in Abu Dhabi for long, they knew the wicket like the back of their hands. The opening pair of Mohammad Hafiz and Ahmed Shehzad batted with aplomb despite some fine swing bowling from Mark Craig and Trent Boult. They respected the good deliveries and looked for loose ones to punish. Having done the good work against the Australians, the Pak batsmen were determined to carry on even if the start was slow. The first 10 overs produced only 22 runs but keeping the wickets intact became a priority for Shehzad and Hafeez. They curbed their instincts of playing risky shots. Shehzad gave a stumping chance in the 20th over but BJ Watling failed to collect and thereby missed a simple chance. Pakistan’s 50 came in the 21st over but the batsmen didn’t lose their patience and continued playing sensible cricket. 85/0 in 31 overs at lunch was an ideal beginning for Pakistan and even after lunch, Shehzad and Hafeez kept their heads down and preferred safety to adventure. The first 100 came in the 38th over and 150 in the 49th. At the end of 50 overs Pakistan had reached 158 with both openers on 79 each. Pakistan lost their first wicket in the 53rd over at 178, when Hafeez was deceived by a slower ball from Corey Anderson. Caught in two minds, Hafeez popped a simple return catch and missed his century by 4 runs. Having begun soundly, Pakistan consolidated when Azhar Ali joined Shehzad. The New Zealand bowling attack proved inadequate with the duo playing freely. Shehzad completed his well-deserved and patient century in the 68th over and Pakistan ended the first day at 269/1.
Shehzad and Ali continued next morning and added 169 for the second wicket before Shehzad fell for 176 in a bizarre fashion just before lunch. On a bouncer from Anderson, Shehzad went for a hook and missed. As the ball struck his helmet, the dazed Shehzad went down but his bat fell on the stumps and he was declared out hit-wicket. By then, Pakistan had already reached a commanding position and Azhar Ali and new man Younis Ali kept going merrily. Though the third wicket stand produced only 26 runs, when Ali got out for 87, Pakistan did not lose any more wickets in the innings. Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq added 193 for the fourth wicket before Pakistan declared at a massive 566/3. Khan remained unbeaten on 100 and Misbah on 102.
New Zealand began their first innings by losing skipper McCullum, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor for just 47 on the board. Corey Anderson and Tom Latham added 83 for the fourth wicket to steady the boat but Anderson and Neesham also fell soon. Latham was the lone ranger, who kept running out of partners at regular intervals against some fine bowling by Pakistan. Once Latham got out at 215, the steam went out of New Zealand batting and the innings folded at 262.
Misbah-ul-Haq didn’t enforce the follow on and chose to consolidate the lead by batting again. Pakistan batted briskly in their second knock and yet again dominated the Kiwis bowlers. Mohammad Hafiz, who missed his century in the first innings used the opportunity to score 101 not out from 132 balls in ODI fashion and Pakistan made 178/2 in just 39.2 overs to set a winning target of 480 for New Zealand with plenty of time left in the match. Coming back to bat in the fourth innings, New Zealand began well to put on 57 for the first wicket. But after that, they started losing wickets at regular intervals. The victory target was too stiff for the Kiwis and they lost 8 wickets for just 138 runs on the fourth day. However, Craig, Sodhi and Boult prolonged the match to the final day and reduced the margin of victory. When Imran Khan wrapped Sodhi’s pads with a fuller length ball, Pakistan emerged victorious by 248 runs to register their third straight test win after the 2-0 sweep of Australia.
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