Williamson 237, Nicholls 157 deflate Pakistan

Williamson 237, Nicholls 157 deflate Pakistan

Tea New Zealand 599 for 6 (Williamson 237, Mitchell 69*, Jamieson 6*) lead Pakistan 297 (Azhar 93, Jamieson 5-69) by 302 runs

It rained runs, boundaries, Kane Williamson’s class and, of course, Pakistan’s drop catches on a leaden Christchurch day. It means there was more agony for the visitors, whose deficit continues to get bigger and bigger. At tea on day three, New Zealand were at an imposing 599 for six, leading by 302.

Kane Williamson fell for 238, his fourth Test double century, minutes before tea in an extended second session in which New Zealand piled on 201 runs. Kyle Jamieson, perhaps sent up to push the scoring, had a well-set Daryl Mitchell on company on 69. New Zealand’s only consideration could be how many overs they may want to give Pakistan in the final session, or if they want to bat on with two full days remaining. Will the temptation of bowling with a big lead under overcast skies be too hard to resist?

Williamson began the session on 177, and should’ve been out without adding to his score as he tried to play his signature dab. However, Azhar Ali, not for the first time in the day, put down a catch at gully, off Shaheen Afridi this time, after reprieving the other centurion Henry Nicholls earlier in the day off Mohammad Abbas. A right hand already wrapped in tape took a stinging blow as Azhar completed the dive.

As the conditions got murkier and the bowling got defensive, he punctured them politely by working the ball into the gaps, running tirelessly between the wickets and then bravely taking them on with the pull and hook with Pakistan trying the short-ball strategy with two men back.

With tea approaching, Pakistan looked to cut off runs by having Zafar Gohal bowl his left-arm spin from over the wicket, but Williamson brought out the reverse sweep, something Daryl Mitchell emulated too in bringing up an aggressive second Test half-century. Mitchell was particularly severe on anything short, using his strong forearms to shimmy down the pitch and pull them in the arc between deep square and deep midwicket. By the time Williamson was out caught looking to arch back and ramp at third man, he’d added 133 with Mitchell.

For much of the day though, the Williamson-Nicholls partnership calmly strolled through without being challenged. Nicholls, let off on 3 and 86, feasted on some tired bowling to bring up his seventh Test century. He traded the hard scrap, along with some luck, for some flamboyance as the session wore on.

Soon after raising the century, he walked down the pitch to heave Abbas over deep midwicket. He looked to improvise, take the bowling on and get the scorecard moving. Not because the hundred was out of the way; because he was struggling with a calf strain that did not allow him to run too much.

The New Zealand captain carried on calmly like he did on Monday, going past Sir Donald Bradman’s Test runs tally, bringing up 7000 Test runs in his 144th innings – that’s quicker that Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and AB de Villiers – and then got stuck in to the bowling.

Pakistan lacked a bowling plan for large parts, but in the first hour, they seemed to have one. The seamers attacked the stumps, something they did not do enough on Monday, and once that failed, they tried to set Williamson up for the short-ball strangle down leg. But they couldn’t sustain pressure or even create a flutter of doubt on him. Having merely one slip fielder for formality and six men back for much of the session left Williamson with no pressure to contend with.

Nicholls fell to a top-edged hook for 157 to end a giant stand, giving Afridi, who should’ve had him on 3 on the second day, some reward for tirelessly bounding in. BJ Watling nicked to Haris Sohail at third slip to give Afridi a second wicket. However, such opportunities were far and few. And even when Pakistan took the chances, it didn’t really amount to much. The wheels had turned and how.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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