Day 2 talk of couples had revolved around Trent Boult and Tim Southee, Day 3 was all about Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, reports ESPN Cricinfo.
A 201-run partnership between Pakistan’s most dependable batsmen put their side in firm control of the deciding Test in Abu Dhabi, taking their side 38 runs beyond New Zealand’s first-innings score at team on the third day.
Azhar had reached his first Test hundred since Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan’s retirements before lunch, while Shafiq got to his shortly before tea. For much of the session, the duo carried on the solid work they had done since the start of the day, but they were challenged by better bowling, particularly in an excellently probing spell by Tim Southee, who kept finding the outside edge of the right-handers without a wicket to show for it. However, the absence of an enforcer like Neil Wagner was telling, with Pakistan always confident of a pressure release from any end Southee or Trent Boult weren’t operating from.
Will Somerville remains one of New Zealand’s most economical bowlers, but manifestly lacks the bite required to take advantage of a pitch that rewarded both Yasir Shah and Bilal Asif on the first two days. It may be taking less turn than it had earlier.
, but one can’t help think Pakistan’s spinners would have found a way to be far more troublesome to the batsman; it is the one facet of the game where the visitors find themselves clearly outclassed. Even Patel from the other end was largely subdued for much of the day.
In the morning, Pakistan got off the blocks lightning fast, scoring at above four an over for the first hour. The ball had gone soft and with neither of New Zealand’s premier fast bowlers quite as effective until after the new ball was available, Azhar and Shafiq saw fit to make hay. There were regular boundaries to be had, and aside from a couple of deliveries keeping low, nothing to disquiet a settled pair at the top of their game.
Boult and Southee were able to regain a measure of control in the 10 overs after the new ball was taken. Boult, particularly from around the wicket, gave Shafiq a number of jumpy moments, exploiting movement both ways, as well as the angle, to beat the batsman on multiple occasions. He was judicious in the use of the short ball, too, which was well directed. But Shafiq overcame the habit of giving his wicket away after a good start to ensure Pakistan finished the first session with no wickets lost.
Twenty minutes before tea, Shafiq, who was understandably nervous as he approached his century – he hadn’t managed one all year and wasted several promising starts – scampered through for a quick single off Patel to get to the landmark, relief written all across his beaming face. Next over, however, he missed a straight one from the left-arm spinner and to compound the miscalculation, went for a rather woeful review of the on-field umpire’s lbw decision. Even so, he had, for a change, done his job to the fullest, and Babar Azam and Sarfraz have a perfectly serviceable platform to press home their advantage.
Score (Day 3): Pakistan – 346/8 (Azhar 134, Boult 2/66), Pakistan lead by 38 runs.