Wil­liamson leads fight­back

Black Caps skip­per gets sup­port from Ni­cholls as vis­i­tors have hope of se­ries win

The New Zealand Herald - - Super Sport - Niall An­der­son

Apiv­otal part­ner­ship be­tween Kane Wil­liamson and Henry Ni­cholls has given New Zealand hope of a fa­mous away test se­ries vic­tory over Pak­istan.

Be­fore tea on day four, the Black Caps had reached 152-4 in their sec­ond in­nings, lead­ing by 78 runs. Hav­ing started the day at 26-2, the early wick­ets of night­watch­man Will Somerville and Ross Tay­lor had re­duced their hopes of vic­tory, leav­ing a se­ri­ous fight­back re­quired by Wil­liamson and Ni­cholls. Un­der im­mense pres­sure, they man­aged to do just that. Wil­liamson was in con­trol once again, of­fer­ing few chances as he reached 50 for the 100th time in all in­ter­na­tional for­mats, be­fore mov­ing through to 80 not out. He had added an un­beaten 92 with Ni­cholls, who was on 35 after over­com­ing a shaky start.

Ni­cholls sur­vived two re­views be­fore he had reached dou­ble fig­ures, with Pak­istan us­ing up all of their re­views out of des­per­a­tion to break the part­ner­ship. Un­der­stand­ably so, as it was an es­sen­tial com­bi­na­tion — after Ni­cholls, BJ Watling was the Black Caps’ only spe­cial­ist bats­man re­main­ing, so one break­through could have started a col­lapse and given Pak­istan a small to­tal to chase in the fourth in­nings.

A lead of at least 150 would put Pak­istan un­der pres­sure, but more re­al­is­ti­cally, an ad­van­tage of 200-250 would be needed for the vis­i­tors to have a chance of re­peat­ing their first test hero­ics, and claim­ing a first away test se­ries win over Pak­istan in 49 years. Of course, a lead of 250 could still be at­tain­able, even given Pak­istan’s dis­mal re­cent record at chas­ing tar­gets. There would be plenty of pres­sure on the New Zealand spin­ners, and it would take just one good part­ner­ship to put Pak­istan back on top.

How­ever, the Black Caps at least have a chance, some­thing that looked un­likely after los­ing Somerville and Tay­lor in the first ses­sion. Yasir Shah was again heav­ily

in­volved, with the Pak­istan

legspin­ner be­com­ing the fastest player to 200 test wick­ets when he claimed the scalp of Somerville. Somerville was trapped lbw for four, giv­ing Shah his 200th wicket in just 33 matches — break­ing the 82-year-old record held by New Zealand-born Aus­tralian legspin­ner Clar­rie Grim­mett.

That brought Tay­lor to the wicket, and he never looked like he was go­ing to stay around for long. Ag­gres­sive bat­ting saw him reach 22 from 14 balls, in­clud­ing a pull shot for four from Sha­heen Afridi.

How­ever, he was un­wit­tingly lured into Pak­istan’s trap, pulling at an­other short ball from Afridi and pick­ing out Bi­lal Asif on the square leg bound­ary. It drew a laugh from Pak­istan coach Mickey Arthur, who knew the plan had worked to per­fec­tion.

Four wick­ets down while still trail­ing, the Black Caps were all of a sud­den in dire straits, hav­ing squan­dered the good work their bowlers had ac­com­plished to get them back into a po­si­tion of hope.

From 286-3, Pak­istan had ear­lier been bowled out for 348 as spin­ners Ajaz Pa­tel (2-100) and Somerville (4-75) ripped through the tail, and the Black Caps had re­newed hope. The dis­missals of open­ers Tom Latham and Jeet Raval sig­nif­i­cantly dimmed those hopes be­fore stumps, and Pak­istan con­tin­ued to strike on day four — putting the Black Caps firmly on the ropes. How­ever, Wil­liamson and Ni­cholls fought back, and now this test — and the se­ries — is any­body’s game.

Photo / Pho­to­sport

The Black Caps are once again re­ly­ing on Kane Wil­liamson.

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