KARACHI: After being decidedly second best to New Zealand for the better part of three days in the second Test, Pakistan, led by a defiant century from Sarfraz Ahmed and backed by the spin duo of Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah, have come back into the match on day four at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
New Zealand were 167-6 at stumps, with an overall lead of 177 runs. It could have been much worse for the visitors but Ross Taylor, who was unbeaten on 77 off 93 balls, held up one end and continued to add to the lead.
Babar and Yasir bowled a probing line and often landed the ball on the rough outside the left-handers’ off-stump, being rewarded for their persistence with three wickets apiece.
The Kiwis started their second innings with a lead of 10 runs and skipper Brendon McCullum provided an early flurry. However, in-form Tom Latham was caught on nine at leg-gully by Asad Shafiq off Yasir.
Kane Williamson failed yet again, dismissed on 11 by Babar, and New Zealand were 63-2.
McCullum kept attacking but his innings came to an end on 45 after being trapped lbw by Babar while Corey Anderson was back in the pavilion without troubling the scorers seven balls later to Yasir, leaving the Black Caps struggling at 79-4.
Taylor took on the run-scoring responsibility but wickets tumbled at regular intervals as Jimmy Neesham and BJ Watling fell to Babar and Yasir respectively, both on 11.
Pakistan had resumed the day on 281-6, trailing by 122 runs. A double strike from Tim Southee saw Yasir dismissed on two and Ehsan Adil on zero, leaving Pakistan 285-8.
Sarfraz was quickly running out of partners when Babar nicked a Trent Boult delivery to the keeper.
312-9 and trailing by 91 runs, Pakistan needed a miracle and Sarfraz provided them with one, adding 81 runs for the final partnership with Rahat Ali, who made 16 out of the 81. The keeper passed his previous career best of 109 but was dismissed by an unlikely source soon after on 112 as Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum took his first ever Test wicket when the wicket-keeping batsman hit the ball straight back to the bowler.
The Karachi-born became the first Pakistani wicketkeeper to score three Test hundreds in a calendar year and also set a new national record for most runs in a year with his tally of 667 surpassing Kamran Akmal’s 606 in 2006.
“I asked Rahat to stay with me and he did a really good job, which allowed me to score a century and that partnership allowed us to cut the deficit,” said Sarfaraz. “We’ll try to bowl out New Zealand tomorrow morning [Friday] within 40 or 50 runs. If we end up winning this Test, then I can certainly say that this was my best innings so far.”
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