Azhar Ali, Mohammad Rizwan mount Pakistan fightback

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Azhar Ali, Mohammad Rizwan mount Pakistan fightback


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Kyle Jamieson’s third Test five-for ensured New Zealand shared the day’s honours

Stumps Pakistan 297 (Azhar 93, Rizwan 61, Ashraf 48, Jamieson 5-69) v New Zealand

An innings of great concentration from Azhar Ali and one full of enterprise from Mohammad Rizwan, the captain, formed the bedrock of a much-improved batting performance from Pakistan. Yet, they were perhaps left wondering what may have been had their top order shown a bit more application.

That said, by scoring at close to 3.50 runs an over to make 297, Pakistan ensured they drove the game forward on a surface where the ball did enough right through the day to keep the fast bowlers interested. That questions were asked of them all day was largely thanks to Kyle Jamieson, who claimed his third five-for in Tests.

Azhar’s knock was largely one of denial. Risks weren’t his cup of tea, the emphasis firmly on crease occupation by playing close to the body and trying wear the bowlers down. That said, when runs were at a premium and Jamieson threatened to take the game away, Azhar also found a way to punish the odd-bad deliveries, his on-driving in particular right out of the top drawer.

His 82-run partnership with Rizwan after Pakistan lost three wickets in as many overs to Jamieson, who came in first change after the first hour’s play, changed the complexion of Pakistan’s innings. At 83 for 4, when collapse was written all over the innings, Rizwan ensured he was up and running to ease much of the pressure on Azhar.

As such, the day started poorly for Pakistan with Shan Masood trapped lbw by a toe-crusher from Tim Southee in the second over. This was after Southee had set him up in the opening over with a succession of away-going deliveries, all of which were dealt well with a tight defence. Not only did Masood eventually end up falling for a duck, he also burnt a review in referring what seemed a plumb call, something DRS reaffirmed seconds later.

Abid Ali was the next to go, but after he’d dug in and fought his way through the first hour. His leg-side strokeplay was competent, but the tendency to poke at deliveries outside off had him playing one too many into the cordon. It didn’t help that Jamieson got it to shoot up off a length and straighten.

Then, two deliveries into his next over, Haris Sohail, over whom there seem to be question marks every time he bats, was caught in a moment of indecision. The ball flew off his edge by the time he decided to withdraw the bat, with Henry Nicholls pouching one in the gully. By then, it was clear this was no surface to try and fight your way through – runs were equally important.

Jamieson further drove this home when Fawad Alam, centurion from the previous game, got a snorter of a bouncer that had him fall over in trying to fend, only for the ball to sharply jab back in to lob off the glove to BJ Watling behind the stumps. Just like that, Pakistan had collapsed. But Rizwan had other ideas as he strode out confidently.

He counter-punched quite magnificently after a rain break, hitting Trent Boult for four successive boundaries to get the scoreboard moving. He was particularly severe on anything even a fraction short, using his hand-eye coordination to play fierce cut shots or at times even use the pace to guide the ball along the carpet behind square on the off side.

It needed Jamieson’s introduction once again after drinks to cut short the partnership. Getting one to lift off a length and nip back in, he had Rizwan playing the wrong line as he nicked behind. This could have ended up being a double-strike for New Zealand had Ross Taylor not let off Faheem Ashraf at first slip on 4. It would cost New Zealand 44 more as Ashraf followed his captain’s template to counter-attack with the lower order for company.

When Azhar was out in the final session, it appeared as it Pakistan could fold quickly. But Ashraf and debutant Zafar Gohar laid down a template their top order could’ve done better to follow. Goher, with a first-class batting average of 21 prior to this game, making a solid 34 to add more heft before the lower order was dismantled without much of a fight.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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