Babar Azam’s eighth Test half-century propelled Pakistan into a 72-run lead over New Zealand at Tea on Day 2 of the first Test in Abu Dhabi. Azam stays unbeaten on 60 and might fall short of partners in his quest for his maiden hundred in Test cricket, given Pakistan have already lost eight wickets, four of them coming in the afternoon session.
Trent Boult provided New Zealand with the breakthrough in the session, scything through the flourishing 83-run stand between Azam and Asad Shafiq by removing the latter with a low-keeping delivery that back-spun onto the stumps. Ajaz Patel’s extended 11-over spell after the lunch break paid rich dividends as he struck in the over immediately after Boult, removing Sarfraz Ahmed with a mistimed sweep to square leg.
With Bilal Asif terminally making room to cut a delivery and overbalancing, Ajaz didn’t have to wait too long for his second Test wicket. Yasir Shah offered some resistance towards the fag end of the session, playing out 38 balls for 9 runs, but he became the 150th Test victim for Neil Wagner, who finally registered a wicket in the Test match.
How Pakistan build the lead in the final session will depend on how well Azam bats with Hasan Ali and Mohammad Abbas against the second new ball, which is an over old. Given the low-scoring nature of this Test, any lead around 100 should auger very well for Pakistan, who bat last in this Test match.
Brief scores: New Zealand 153 (Kane Williamson 63; Yasir Shah 3-54) trail Pakistan 225/8 (Babar Azam 60*; Trent Boult 3-52) by 72 runs.
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