Azhar leads Pak fightback against New Zealand

Pak­istan are still 135 runs adrift of New Zealand’s first in­nings to­tal of 274

Gulf Times Sport - - CRICKET -

Azhar Ali struck a fight­ing half cen­tury to help Pak­istan re­cover to 139-3 at close on the sec­ond day of the third and fi­nal Test against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi yes­ter­day

It marked a good re­cov­ery from 17-2 af­ter Kiwi pace bowler Trent Boult ripped out open­ers Imam-ul-Haq and Mo­hamed Hafeez, who later an­nounced his re­tire­ment from Test cricket. Azhar was un­beaten on 62 at the close hav­ing shared a dogged, un­bro­ken fourth wicket part­ner­ship of 54 with Asad Shafiq who will re­sume on 26.

Pak­istan are still 135 runs adrift of New Zealand’s first in­nings to­tal of 274 in which BJ Watling made a gutsy and vi­tal 77 not out. The three-match se­ries is tied at 1-1 af­ter New Zealand won the first Test in Abu Dhabi by four runs be­fore Pak­istan bounced back with an

in­nings and 16-run win in the sec­ond in Dubai.

Azhar re­mains key for Pak­istan if they are to build any kind of first in­nings lead. The 33-year-old dropped an­chor

and found the bound­ary just four times as he crawled through to his 32nd Test half cen­tury. His 62 not out was carved painstak­ingly from 169 de­liv­er­ies as the Pak­istan scor­ing rate strug­gled to rise above two an over. The equally-ex­pe­ri­enced Shafiq hit the same num­ber of fours in his 26 which has so far oc­cu­pied 85 balls. The Pak­istan top or­der was jolted by Boult’s dou­ble strike ei­ther side of lunch. Hafeez has been strug­gling for form for a while, hav­ing made just 66 runs in seven in­nings since scor­ing a hun­dred against Aus­tralia in Dubai in Oc­to­ber, fol­low­ing his re­call to the Test side af­ter a two-year ab­sence.It was no sur­prise when Boult had him caught low down at sec­ond slip by Tim Southee for a fourth­ball duck in his first over, right be­fore the lunch in­ter­val.

In the fourth full over af­ter the break, Imam-ul-Haq took his eye off a Trent bouncer and was hit on the back of the hel­met. Next ball, he edged to Southee at third slip and was on his way for just nine.

Azhar then dug in with Haris So­hail, adding 68 for the third wicket be­fore So­hail edged Southee to Watling be­hind the stumps for 34.

It was Watling, with an un­beaten 77, who car­ried New Zealand’s overnight to­tal from 229-7 and added an in­valu­able 45 runs over the last three wick­ets to frus­trate Pak­istan.

Dur­ing his five-and-a-halfhour knock in his 56th Test, Watling be­came the 14th New Zealan­der to pass 3,000 runs.

Watling, dropped on nine by Imam off Bi­lal Asif on Mon­day, and debu­tant Will Somerville ex­tended their eighth wicket part­ner­ship to 45 be­fore Bi­lal Asif took all three fi­nal wick­ets to fin­ish with 5-65, his sec­ond five wicket haul in five Tests.

The 33-year-old play­ing his 56th Test, reached his 16th Test half-cen­tury. His 77 not out came from 199 balls in five hours and 32 min­utes, and in­cluded four bound­aries.

Leg-spin­ner Yasir Shah, in his 33rd Test, failed to add to his three wick­ets on Mon­day, leav­ing him two short of be­com­ing the fastest man to reach 200 Test scalps.

Pak­istani bats­man Azhar Ali (L) plays a shot as New Zealand wick­et­keeper BJ Watling (R) and team­mate Ross Tay­lor look on in Abu Dhabi yes­ter­day.

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