Pakistan rode on Saud Shakeel’s patient first test century and Safaraz Ahmed’s aggressive 78 to trail New Zealand by 42 runs on the third day of the second test on Wednesday.
Lefthanded Shakeel batted throughout the day to go unbeaten on 124 off 336 balls in an innings spanned that over eight hours before New Zealand spinners hit back late with four wickets and Pakistan finished the day at 407-9 at stumps.
“When I entered into the 90s I got nervous for 1-2 overs, but Sarfaraz told me don’t take tension,” Shakeel said after raising his maiden test hundred in his hometown and hitting 17 fours. “Sarfaraz is a very senior player, I started my career with him. It was good that he was with me when I scored my century.”
New Zealand part-time seamer Daryl Mitchell squeezed out Pakistan in the final session which saw the host score 70 runs as leftarm spinner Ajaz Patel (3-88) chipped away with wickets of Agha Salman (41) and Hasan Ali (4) through juggling catches by Michael Bracewell and Devon Conway.
Legspinner Ish Sodhi (2-94), who is recalled for the Pakistan test tour after four years, had Naseem Shah and Mir Hamza clean bowled off successive deliveries, but Abrar Ahmed avoided the hat-trick ball with an umbrella of fielders surrounding him and was yet to get off the mark.
New Zealand could have exposed Pakistan’s long tail early after tea still leading by 100 runs, but Tom Latham dropped a regulation catch of Shakeel’s lose drive at short point much to the disappointment of skipper Tim Southee (1-62).
Earlier, Shakeel and Sarfaraz kept New Zealand at bay with their determined 150-run stand in three hours after Pakistan lost the sole wicket of Imam-ul-Haq in a quiet first session which also produced 70 runs.
Mitchell came close to dismissing Sarfaraz off his first ball late in the second session, but the batter successfully overturned umpire Alex Wharf’s lbw ruling through television referral. But two balls later, Tom Blundell had him stumped after collecting the ball down the legside.
TV umpire Ahsan Raza felt Sarfaraz’s heel was not grounded in the crease when Blundell whipped the bails off after going through several replays. Sarfaraz hit 10 boundaries and faced 109 balls as he continued to dominate New Zealand bowlers after scoring two half centuries in his comeback test match in almost four years last week.
“It was a little bit of luck in terms of timing,” Blundell said. “At first I don’t think it was out and then obviously looking on the big screen there’s a bit of a chance. So for me it was just get the bails off as quick as possible and fortunately for me it was perfect timing.”
Shakeel and Sarfaraz looked solid against the spinners with their sweep shots and New Zealand couldn’t get through their defenses even after taking the second new ball after lunch before Mitchell struck late in the second session.
Shakeel, who spent almost an hour before scoring his first run off his 42nd ball on Day 2, showed plenty of patience but accelerated once he completed his half century off 173 balls after lunch.
He reached 99 with a swept boundary against offspinner Bracewell and then ran a quick single to mid-off to raise his memorable maiden hundred off 240 balls with 14 boundaries.
Shakeel had a terrific start to his test cricket last month when he made four half centuries in Pakistan’s 3-0 loss at home against England. He also scored a half century in the drawn first test against New Zealand last week before finally getting his first hundred.
New Zealand kept Pakistan quiet in the first session and allowed only 70 runs as Imam missed out on another opportunity to score a century.
Imam followed his 96 in the opening test with a knock of 83 runs before he was caught behind after Southee successfully overturned an on-field not out decision of umpire Wharf through television referral.
Imam, who hit 10 fours and a six, batted for just over four hours but tried to play away from his body and the replays suggested the ball had taken the toe-end of his bat to wicketkeeper Tom Blundell.
Shakeel survived an lbw referral in the last over before lunch against Matt Henry (1-58) and moved to a gritty 43 at lunch as Sarfaraz also shaped well for another big knock with his solid sweeps against the spinners before New Zealand dried up runs in the final session and ran through the tailenders.