PAKISTAN VS NEW ZEALAND, 2018
Cricbuzz Staff •
Somerville impressed on his Test debut with a four-wicket haul © AFP
Familiar script unfolded on the third day of the third and final Test in Abu Dhabi as Pakistan just about edged ahead at stumps versus New Zealand on Wednesday (December 5). Pakistan batted themselves into a position of strength and then saw their lower-order undo the good work with some shoddy display. The hosts folded for 348 – having taken a lead of 74 – after losing their last seven wickets for just 62 runs. They were, however, saved the blushes because of the centuries from Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq. New Zealand at close of play were 26 for 2 – losing Jeet Raval and Tom Latham.
Pakistan bossed the first two sessions in the day, frustrating New Zealand to the core, but the visitors stormed back in the final session. Azhar ensured Pakistan got off to a positive start as both him and Shafiq played out the first session without any damage. Not only that, Pakistan scored 89 in the session as Azhar completed his 15th Test ton. The emotions said it all – the wait for 575 days for a Test ton had finally ended. That, however, wasn’t just the landmark he reached. During his 134, he also became the highest run-getter in UAE as Shafiq continued to play second fiddle.
In the post-lunch session, Shafiq took the lead as New Zealand pacers built the pressure. The New Zealand spinners, though, were patchy and allowed the batsmen to score and the pressure was released. Both Ajaz Patel and Somerville far too often bowled the leg-stump line. Azhar suffered a lapse in concentration to give Somerville his maiden Test wicket. He was beaten by the pace and swept the ball to short fine-leg. The 201-run alliance had finally come to an end but Pakistan had a lead by then.
The slender lead, however, didn’t bother New Zealand much. The visitors had finally found the opening they had been looking for three sessions. Shafiq completed his hundred but was undone soon after. His 259-ball stay, that fetched him 104, came to an end when Ajaz trapped him plumb in front. From there on, Pakistan were poised for a collapse. Things unfolded rather rapidly in the final session and Somerville was the one who orchestrated it. In his first over after Tea, he yorked Babar Azam as Pakistan slipped to 312 for 6.
Bilal Asif survived an lbw call when he had a decision against him reversed but edged the left-arm spinner to first slip soon after. Yasir Shah was run out in a comical fashion, having lost his shoe while coming back for the second run and eventually falling short, while Hasan Ali was bowled for a duck. Any hopes of Pakistan stretching the lead to 100 were then pinned on Sarfraz Ahmed but the Pakistan captain chipped the ball straight to mid wicket and was the last man dismissed.
Despite bouncing back in the game, the hosts had to survive a tricky little period in the third session. Unfortunately, for the visitors. Raval fell early. Incidentally, he was at the receiving end of a harsh call. The southpaw batsman was pinged in front and there was no clarity over whether there was an inside edge on replays. The third umpire was forced to go with the on-field call and Raval had to trudge back to the pavilion.
Kane Williamson saw off a tricky period but will be disappointed with the careless stroke from Latham that helped Pakistan to again gain the ascendancy. The left-hander swept Yasir Shah to square leg as New Zealand lost lost two.
Brief scores: New Zealand 274 & 26/2 trail Pakistan 348 (Azhar Ali 134, Asad Shafiq 104; William Somerville 4-75) by 48 runs.