TURNING UP THE HEAT
Spinners Shah and Asif put Pakistan in control of deciding Abu Dhabi Test as Kiwi captain Williamson hits fighting half-century
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson hit a fighting half century while BJ Watling batted with patience but it was Pakistan who gained the upper hand on the first day of the third and final Test in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Williamson missed out on a 19th Test century but Watling was unbeaten on 42 as New Zealand closed on 229-7, a measured recovery after being reduced to 72-4 by a triple strike from legspinner Yasir Shah in the first session.
Off-spinner Bilal Asif struck twice towards the end of play to swing the momentum back in New Zealand’s favour
Shah began his 33rd Test needing five wickets to become the fastest man to reach the milestone of 200 Test wickets. The record is currently 36 Tests, set 82 years ago by Australian leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett.
Shah managed 3-62 but was then thwarted by the fifth wicket stand of 104 in 249 balls between Williamson and Watling.
He failed to take any more wickets in the last two sessions and still needs another two wickets to hit the 200-mark and claim the record.
Williamson struck seven boundaries but these were the bright points in a day when defence came first.
The normally aggressive Kiwi captain curbed his attacking instinct as he attempted to carve out a first innings that might give his side some leverage. The scoring rarely got above two an over.
Williamson passed 50 in a Test for the 46th time but he was not able to convert his innings into another hundred. Having reached 89 off 176 balls, he mistimed a clip off Hasan Ali shortly after tea and found Asad Shafiq at short midwicket.
Off-spinner Asif took over from Shah, claiming Colin de Grandhomme for 20 and Tim Southee for two to finish with 2-57.
But Watling kept one end intact through his patient near-four hour batting, hitting only one boundary in his 180-ball display of self-denial.
With both teams needing a win to seal a series which is currently tied at 1-1, Shah was the key and the legspinner induced a mini-collapse in the morning as the Kiwis slipped from 70-1 to 73-4 at lunch.
Shah trapped opener Jeet Raval leg before with a faster one for 45. Raval reviewed but ball-tracking showed it would have hit leg stump.
With his next ball, Shah cleanbowled Ross Taylor as the batsman went back but completely missed the ball.
Henry Nicholls saved the hattrick but shortly after he attempted to sweep and Shah flicking the ball as it went through to bowl him around his legs.
Shah, whose 14 wickets helped Pakistan level the series in Dubai, has 25 wickets in the series so far.
It was teenage left-arm paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi who gave Pakistan their initial breakthrough.
The 18-year-old nipped one back sharply to rap opener Tom Latham on the pads. Pakistan reviewed the on-field not out decision and were rewarded when ball-tracking showed the ball would have cannoned into the stumps.
Brief scores New Zealand 229-7 (K Williamson 89, BJ Watling 42*, Y Shah 3-62, B Asif 2-57) v Pakistan
At last: Bilal Asif tasted success towards the end of day’s play.