If you are sold on the numbingly similar brand of Test cricket in the UAE, Abu Dhabi was a glorious disappointment today. Again. 12 wickets fell on the opening day of the first Test between Pakistan and New Zealand, with the lion’s share coming because of New Zealand’s appalling 153 all-out. The humiliation wasn’t just in it being the lowest first-innings total at this venue; it was also in the fact that New Zealand scored as much after opting to bat first on what looked a quintessential first-day wicket.
Kane Williamson stood out for New Zealand with his 27th half-century in Test cricket, holding one end taut as the rest of the visiting batsmen struggled to draw a sync between the length of the delivery and the footwork. Yasir Shah and Mohammad Abbas had reduced New Zealand to 39 for 3 in the first session when Williamson came together with Henry Nicholls to forge a 72-run opening stand, the culmination of which opened the floodgates and saw the visitors lose their last seven wickets for 42 runs.
Quite ironically, it had all started on an ominous note for Pakistan. New Zealand openers Tom Latham and Jeet Rawal had forced Sarfraz Ahmed to resort to Bilal Asif’s spin as early as the 8th over but Abbas, during an extended seven-over spell, delivered the first breakthrough just before panic could set in. It was him again who broke the flourishing fourth wicket stand with an unforced error from Nicholls in the second session, which witnessed New Zealand lose seven.
Hasan Ali laid into Nicholls’s dismissal with aplomb, picking two wickets in two balls to send Williamson and Colin de Grandhomme back to the pavilion. While Williamson gloved an incoming short ball to the wicketkeeper, de Grandhomme was trapped LBW next ball by a searing reverse-swinging delivery from Hasan. With the pitch now aiding appreciable turn, Bilal Asif and Haris Sohail found themselves among the wickets too, and combined to pick three wickets.
Yasir Shah finished with three wickets whereas Abbas, Ali, Sohail finished with two apiece in their third commanding bowling display on the trot – Australia’s 145 and 164 all out in Abu Dhabi recently being the other two.
Pakistan were brisk with the bat against New Zealand, who preferred Neil Wagner over Tim Southee, meaning Colin de Grandhomme was opening the bowling alongside Trent Boult. De Grandhomme, though, didn’t disappoint and drew an outside edge from Imam-ul-Haq to provide the first breakthrough. Mohammad Hafeez, hitherto brisk with four boundaries, fell to a well-timed pull shot off Boult to short mid-wicket.
Two early wickets saw Pakistan raise their guard. Azhar Ali and Haris Sohail then combined to play out 87 deliveries in a crucial 32-run stand that saw Pakistan to safer shores on a what was unequivocally a bowlers’ day.
Brief Scores: New Zealand 153 (Kane Williamson 63; Yasir Shah 3-54, Haris Sohail 2-11, Mohammad Abbas 2-13, Hasan Ali 2-38) lead Pakistan (Haris Sohail 22*, Mohammad Hafeez 20; Colin de Grandhomme 1-17, Trent Boult 1-20) by 94 runs
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