Needing to score 373 or bat out a little more than four sessions, Pakistan went to tea 4 for 2
Tea Pakistan 239 and 4 for 2 (Azhar 4*, Haris 0*, Southee 1-0, Boult 1-4) need another 369 runs to beat New Zealand 431 and 180 for 5 dec (Blundell 64, Latham 53, Naseem 3-55)
The new-ball mastery of Trent Boult and Tim Southee has left Pakistan needing a miracle to get anything out of the first Test at Mount Maunganui. New Zealand declared to leave Pakistan five overs to survive before tea on the fourth day, having set them an unlikely target of 373. Within 14 balls of their innings, Pakistan had lost both openers for no score.
Pakistan’s fast bowlers had extracted only minimal help from the conditions even with the new ball, and it had seemed that New Zealand’s attack would have plenty of hard work ahead of them to take 10 fourth-innings wickets. But as they’ve done time and again in recent years, Boult and Southee were able to do plenty with just a little help.
Boult removed Abid Ali with his second ball, getting it to climb disconcertingly from just short of a length, with the pace, the tight line and the left-arm angle leaving the batsman nowhere to go. All he could do from his initial forward press was to fend desperately at the throat-high ball, and glove it through to the keeper.
An over later, it was Southee’s turn to celebrate, after sending back Shan Masood by subtler means. Having swung the previous ball back into the left-hander from around the wicket, he bowled a cross-seam delivery that just kept going with the angle, perhaps even straightening off the deck in the corridor. Never the most extravagant mover of feet, Masood poked at it and edged to first slip.
All morning, the talk had been about how much time New Zealand would want to give themselves to bowl out Pakistan. By tea, all those calculations had been blown away and replaced by the very real prospect of a four-day finish.
New Zealand began their second innings at the start of the day’s play, with much interest surrounding the conditions. Over the 45.3 overs they played before declaring, it seemed as if the pitch had flattened out almost entirely, with only the occasional instance of uncertain bounce giving the batsmen cause for worry.
Mohammad Abbas looked the most threatening of Pakistan’s bowlers during his new-ball spell, testing the openers’ judgment with tight lines around off stump, and just a hint of seam movement. Slanting the ball across Tom Latham, he produced the only passage of play when ball dominated bat, finding the left-hander’s edge three times in two overs only for the ball to fall short of the slips cordon each time.
The openers endured only one other moment of genuine concern thereafter, when Faheem Ashraf got one to scoot through at ankle height and sneak under a drive from Tom Blundell, missing off stump by a matter of inches.
Otherwise it was smooth sailing during a first-wicket stand of 111, with Blundell making an impressive comeback into the runs after scores of 14, 14 and 5 in his first three Test innings of the summer. He seemed to get into better positions than during the first innings, with a more pronounced back-and-across trigger helping him break his inertia and get his feet moving.
He took a little time settling, with the lack of pace off the pitch causing him to mistime a few of his drives, but after the drinks break he flowed smoothly, looking especially strong on the pull and the cut, and reached his fifty off 87 balls.
Latham grew increasingly assured the longer he stayed at the crease, and used the sweep efficiently as always, with Yasir Shah getting little of the sharp turn or bounce that he extracted during the first innings. After six overs in the first session, he wasn’t seen again.
Leading by 290 at lunch, New Zealand made a concerted effort to up the ante after the break, with Blundell showing their intent by slogging at Abbas and having his leg stump dislodged. The singles flowed smoothly against deep-set fields, and there were frequent attempts to go hard at the bowling too, particularly when Pakistan switched tack to bowling short. Naseem Shah picked up three wickets in the bargain, a small consolation for an otherwise miserable day for the visitors.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo