KARACHI: Tom Latham’s second century in as many games has given New Zealand the upper hand as they finished 243-3 at the end of day one in the second Test of the three-match series against Pakistan in Dubai.
Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum had said after their loss in the first match that ‘It would be nice if we could win the toss, bat first, and put some scoreboard pressure on Pakistan’, and when he guessed ‘heads’ correctly at the toss, New Zealand had the chance to do just that.
McCullum and Latham started off well and were seldom troubled as the ball came nicely onto the bat without much seam or spin movement. The pair looked on course to end New Zealand’s hundred-run opening stand drought but the skipper pulled the ball straight down Shan Masood’s throat at deep midwicket — the only man in the deep on the leg side — off a tame Ehsan Adil delivery to make it 77-1.
Kane Williamson then came into the middle just before lunch and also looked generally untroubled. However, he was dismissed on 32 after getting his eye in but was not to be blamed as he received a nigh on unplayable delivery from Zulfiqar Babar that pitched on leg and went past the outside edge to crash into the off stump.
Ross Taylor arrived at the middle with the score at 153-2 as Pakistan sensed a way back into the game but some solid batting from Taylor and Latham quashed any hopes of a batting collapse. The former soon reached the second hundred of his career, to further back his claims prior to the match that the Pakistan spinners, while challenging, are not unplayable.
Pakistan’s close fielding had been particularly impressive recently but old demons came to haunt the hosts as Azhar Ali, usually so safe in catching positions, dropped both Latham and Taylor to frustrate the bowlers. The batsmen also survived some close calls as the ball went past the stumps and the outside edge on several occasions, but runs continued to flow.
However, Taylor’s forward defence was found lacking once again as he was unable to keep the ball down and Masood snapped up his second catch of the day sharply at silly point off a Yasir Shah delivery in the final session. Taylor, like Williamson and McCullum before him, was dismissed after doing all the hard work and the partnership was the third one to be broken in the 70s, something that will surely disappoint the visitors.
Latham played through the entire day and was unbeaten on 137 at stumps but felt that making runs was not easy in the pitch. “It was nice day. We showed consistency and it’s nice to get a hundred,” he said. “The pitch has bounce so playing the sweep against the spinners was risky. Pakistan bowled pretty well and pitched the ball in the right areas. It was turning and moving around and it wasn’t easy to bat on.”
As it stands, Corey Anderson — unusually slow at seven off 38 balls — and Latham will begin day two with New Zealand on top but not out of reach. With two lefties out on the crease, Pakistan would surely be missing all-rounder Muhammad Hafeez as both Yasir and Babar have looked more dangerous against the right-handers.
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