Azhar uses his ex­pe­ri­ence to put Pak­istan in a promis­ing po­si­tion against Black­caps on day Hafeez an­nounces re­tire­ment from Tests

Sport360 - - Front Page - By Shahid Hashmi @Sport360 ✉ [email protected]

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 on Tues­day.

It marked a good re­cov­ery from 17-2 af­ter Kiwi pace bowler Trent Boult ripped out open­ers Imam-ulHaq and Mo­ham­mad 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 from 169 balls 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 off 85 balls.

Farewell Hafeez

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 twoyear 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.

Hafeez, 38, who made his de­but against Bangladesh in 2003, an­nounced at the close of play that this Test, his 55th, would be his last.

“I feel time is up,” said Hafeez who has scored 3,644 runs, with 10 hun­dreds and 12 half cen­turies.

In the fourth full over af­ter the break, Imam-ul-Haq took his eye off a Boult 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.

Dur­ing his five-and-a-half-hour 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 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 half­cen­tury.

Watling’s 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.

The cur­rent record has stood for 82 years af­ter Aus­tralia’s Clar­rie Grim­mett reached 200 wick­ets in 36 Tests in 1936.

Ones for the ages: Azhar (main) and Hafeez (in­set)

Lead­ing the charge: Azhar’s pres­ence will be cru­cial if Pak­istan are to gain a first in­nings lead in Abu Dhabi.

That’s it: Mo­ham­mad Hafeez said the Abu Dhabi Test will be his last.

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