Shakeel’s first Test century inspires New Zealand to comeback

Shakeel's first Test century inspires New Zealand to comeback

Updated: Jan 4, 2023 11:09 pm

On the third day of the second Test on Wednesday, Pakistan trailed New Zealand by 42 runs thanks to Safaraz Ahmed’s aggressive 78 and the patient first Test century of Saud Shakeel.

Before New Zealand spinners came back late with four wickets, lefthanded Shakeel batted throughout the day to go unbeaten on 124 off 336 balls in an innings that lasted over eight hours, and Pakistan concluded the day at 407-9 at stumps.

“When I entered into the 90s I got nervous for 1-2 overs, but Sarfaraz told me don’t take tension,” Shakeel said after raising his maiden Test hundred in his hometown and hitting 17 fours.

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“Sarfaraz is a very senior player, I started my career with him. It was good that he was with me when I scored my century.” 

In the last session, which saw the home team collect 70 runs, part-time New Zealand seamer Daryl Mitchell forced Pakistan to submit. Left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel (3-88) chipped away with the wickets of Agha Salman (41) and Hasan Ali (4) thanks to acrobatic catches by Michael Bracewell and Devon Conway.

Legspinner Ish Sodhi (2-94) clean bowled Naseem Shah and Mir Hamza off successive deliveries; however, Abrar Ahmed avoided the hat-trick ball while being shielded by fielders and was still waiting to make a debut. Sodhi is back for the Pakistan Test tour after a four-year absence. To the dismay of captain Tim Southee, New Zealand might have exposed Pakistan’s big tail early after lunch while still leading by 100 runs, but Tom Latham failed to make a catch on Shakeel’s loose drive at short point (1-62).

Shakeel and Sarfaraz earlier held off New Zealand with a resolute 150-run stand in three hours after Pakistan lost Imam-ul-Haq as their lone wicket in a quiet first session that had yielded 70 runs.

Late in the second session, Mitchell nearly got Sarfaraz out with his first ball, but the hitter successfully appealed umpire Alex Wharf’s lbw decision. But after collecting the ball down the legside after two balls, Tom Blundell had him stumped.

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After viewing multiple replays, TV umpire Ahsan Raza concluded that Sarfaraz’s heel was not firmly planted in the crease when Blundell whipped the bails off. After reaching two half century in his first Test match in nearly four years last week, Sarfaraz continued to dominate New Zealand bowlers while facing 109 balls and hitting 10 boundaries.

“It was a little bit of luck in terms of timing,” Blundell said.

“At first I don’t think it was out and then obviously looking on the big screen there’s a bit of a chance. So for me it was just get the bails off as quick as possible and fortunately for me it was perfect timing.”

Before Mitchell struck late in the second session, Shakeel and Sarfaraz looked strong against the spinners with their sweep strokes, and New Zealand was unable to get past their defences even after taking the second new ball after lunch.

Shakeel demonstrated a lot of patience on Day 2, taking nearly an hour before scoring his first run off his 42nd ball, but he picked up the pace after he reached his half-century after 173 balls after lunch. Against offspinner Bracewell, he hit 99 with a sweeping boundary and then sped to mid-off for a single to achieve his remarkable first hundred off 240 balls with 14 boundaries.

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