A late bounce back by the Hosts as the contest stands even after Day 1 :
The first day of the first Test of the year, which will mark the end of a doleful Test season for Pakistan, rose in Karachi with the deck having presence of grass and fair bit of moisture, as promised by Pakistan’s chief selector, Shahid Afridi, a couple of days ago. The coin was tossed and Tim Southee ended up calling the right side and chose to bat first citing the batting friendly condition of the pitch.
Teams came in, Babar’s men took positions in the field while Tom Latham and Devon Conway came out from the NZ camp with their bats. New ball was handed to Mir Hamza who conceded 1 run. Naseem Shah, after recovering from his shoulder injury, was made the part of the team and was handed the ball after Hamza. Pacers from both ends continued while Kiwis openers kept on getting comfortable with the surface. Batters took an over or two to settle after which they decided to increase the run rate by hitting boundaries at least once an over. Hasan Ali, who was playing his first Test match after around 6 months, was called to replace Mir Hamza and he stopped the leaking of boundaries. Meanwhile, Abrar was seen warming up and soon was given the ball with a Slip and Short leg surrounding the batter. The openers, however, tried their best to make the bowlers pay for any loose delivery which came their way. The run rate surged upto 4.5 and Conway and Latham were comfortably hitting Abrar for boundaries. Agha Salman and Mir Hamza were sent in to replace Hasan Ali and Abrar. Hamza appealed along with his teammates when his ball hit the back pad of Tom Latham, who went upstairs quickly. Sadly for Pakistan, the Ultra Edge did not show a flat line thus indicating an inside edge which saved Latham’s wicket who was nearing his 50.
Soon Latham reached the 50 mark and raised his bat while the nearly empty stands at Karachi stared at him. Conway was tailing behind his teammate as he stood at 44. Naseem Shah came and replaced Hamza and also came Conway’s half century. The openers were enjoying the game while playing in a way which was a hybrid of old-school Test cricket and Bazball cricket. Nevertheless, the thrashing by openers was nowhere near ending as the scoring rate stayed above 4. Naseem Shah and Salman bowled till Lunch and tried to bring the RR a lick below 4. The first session of the day ended and it was not a good session for Pakistan as the black caps scored 119 runs in 30 overs with no loss.
Abrar came to bowl the first over of the second session and Naseem threw the ball from the other end. Spin-pace duo controlled the runs for a few overs before Abrar allowed them to hit boundaries off him again. Naseem, however, was rigid this time and it was exhibited when he sent Tom Latham back after hitting his front pad. Pakistan got their first breakthrough of the day and the glee of the faces of Babar’s men was worthy of witnessing. In came Kane Williamson, the dangerman.
Abrar was having troubles with controlling his bowls which resulted in him conceding runs. Naseem was replaced by Hasan while surprisingly, Abrar stayed. Babar was seen speaking to Abrar in an encouraging tone and the Skipper’s pep talk did pay off as Abrar gave only 1 run in his next over. He even bowled his first maiden over following Babar’s words of encouragement. Run rate fell to 3.8 now as Hasan Ali was replaced by Mir Hamza. Conway welcomed him by reaching his century while Williamson slapped his delivery for a four. Abrar was bowling very economically but no timber came his way. Mir Hamza was the one taking the beating instead and so Salman replaced him to bowl the last over before tea. Although Pakistan managed to knock one dent on the Kiwis’ batting lineup, the session was again dominated by the visitors. 107 runs came in this session with fall of only 1 wicket.
The third session started, again, with Abrar bowling while Naseem was sent from the other end. An outside edge which kissed Kane Williamson’s bat and was caught, was not appealed by Pakistani fielders. The replay later showed it, making Pakistan regret more. However, the green men did not have to wait for long to get another breakthrough. Salman Agha in his next over saw Conway departing after hitting a century. An outside edge touched his bat after the ball bounced off the surface, Sarfaraz caught it and visitors’ second timber fell. Henry Nicholls walked in while Naseem Shah followed his fellow bowler’s stride as well and in the next over he sent the big fish Williamson home. An outside edge it was again and Sarfaraz took a brilliant catch. New Zealand now looked in trouble as the scoreboard read 240/3 after 64 overs.
Daryl Mitchell treaded in next to join the other new batter. The flow of runs became slow while Pakistan bowlers grew more confident. Salman Agha, being the fifth bowler, was the beast there and he went to hunt another one with Daryl Mitchell on strike. His bowl turned in incredibly and smashed the wickets behind him. Mitchell was hoodwinked and had to go back. Tom Blundell strode in next while Hasan replaced Naseem. 70 overs were finished, New Zealand were resting at 255 with 4 wickets down and run rate was now at 3.6. The spin-pace combo was working for Pakistan and the pitch was offering help too. Salman and Hasan continued sharing the ball for a long time while the NZ batters were trying to protect as many wickets as possible for the second day. Abrar was brought in place of Hasan to bowl from the dying old ball before taking the new cherry which was due in a few overs.
The last hour of the day turned out to be in very beneficial for Pakistan. Apart from controlling the flow of runs, Pakistan took a couple of wickets too. A miraculous dismissal on one of Salman Agha’s delivery ran a wave of excitement through Pakistan. The ball spun away from Nicholls, who was on strike, and was caught by Sarfaraz. Babar Azam and Saud Shakeel were the only ones to appeal but Aleem Dar was not impressed. Surprisingly, Babar signaled for a review where Ultra Edge showed a faint spike and Nicholls had to walk back. Pakistan team was ecstatic and Babar was screaming with delight at the strike which came just near day’s end. Abrar bowled the next over while Michael Bracewell walked in. Abrar, who was wicketless thus far, decided not to end the day with no wickets next to his name. He hit the new man in, Michael Bracewell’s pad and Umpire raised his finger. What looked like a plumb LBW forced Bracewell to go against reviewing the decision. 6th fell for New Zealand and Ish Sodhi entered the arena. Pakistan soon took the new ball and pacers were deployed from both ends. Hasan Ali and Mir Hamza came to take the play forward. Naseem Shah who left the field because of cramps entered and was ready to bowl but Babar decided against it while Abrar took the ball. Salman Agha bowled the last 6 balls of the day and a bumpy first day ended. The final session was, undisputedly, Pakistan’s after Kiwis dominated for a good part of the day. Ish Sodhi and Tom Blundell returned back and the score board will stay at 309/6 overnight.