Pakistan recover to bat out draw

Pakistan lost three wickets for five runs after lunch but recovered to bat out a draw to retain their 1-0 lead over New Zealand going into the final Test in Sharjah. Pakistan went from 70 for 1 to 75 for 4 before Asad Shafiq, in partnerships with Younis Khan and Sarfraz Ahmed, dug in to earn the stalemate.

Shafiq batted 116 deliveries for his unbeaten 41, and his 74-run stand with Younis took 23.4 overs out of the game. The in-form Sarfraz came in and hit a quick 24 as he and Shafiq played out 11.3 overs before both sides decided to call off the match around 30 minutes into the final hour. Play was unlikely to have lasted much longer with light fading, with an hour-long lunch break having being taken on account of Friday prayers.

Pakistan were set 261 to win in 72 overs as New Zealand declared an hour before lunch. They lost Taufeeq Umar in the second over of the chase when he nicked Tim Southee behind. Shan Masood and Azhar Ali dug in against the spinners, but Azhar provided New Zealand an opening when he cracked a Mark Craig full toss straight to extra cover on 24.

Trent Boult was brought back and he immediately found some reverse swing. Masood missed an incoming full delivery and went leg-before for 40. Considering that the ball was angled in and had swung in further, Masood reviewed. However, replays showed the ball straightening almost like an offbreak to hit the inside of leg stump. Masood was struck on the back heel and the ball did not have a long way to travel. It may well have been clipping leg stump and the on-field decision might have stood, but the predictive path shown by ball-tracking brought smiles even from the New Zealand camp.

Masood walked off shaking his head, but there was little doubt about what happened in Boult’s next over. Misbah-ul-Haq took his eyes off a bouncer and was hit on the left arm. Boult went round the stumps next ball and delivered a ripper, angling it in, making Misbah play and reversing it away to take a thin edge to the wicketkeeper.

Younis and Shafiq calmed Pakistan nerves. Shafiq pulled Ish Sodhi for four to get off the mark, and left the fast bowlers safely. Younis was in command in both defence and attack. He stepped out to hit Craig for three sixes, not holding back even in the last over before tea, and exchanging smiles with Brendon McCullum after the third effort. He came down again to the offspinner on 44 but the ball kicked out of the rough and a surprised Younis fended it to slip.

Ish Sodhi, who had bowled some beauties throughout the match, could not summon consistency when it mattered the most on a day five pitch. Sarfraz came out sweeping and driving, and even Shafiq put away the regular boundary balls given by the New Zealand spinners to seal the draw.

Masood and Azhar had been were tested the most by the spinners in a 62-run second-wicket stand in 25.3 overs. Masood padded up to Sodhi’s first ball, a big legbreak jagging in from the rough outside off. The lbw appeal was turned down, and New Zealand did not review, but replays showed the ball would have hit middle just under the top. Sodhi spun it even more next ball, right across Masood and down the leg side.

Pakistan managed 32 off the 14 overs till lunch, but Masood and Azhar were more positive when they came out again. Masood used the sweep against Sodhi, and also pulled him for six and four. Craig had a leg-before appeal turned down against Masood off a straighter one, and then beat him twice in succession with turn and bounce. Masood responded by stepping out to loft the offspinner for a straight six.

Southee gave Azhar a few bouncers and the batsman fended one down the leg side and also edged just short of second slip. He recovered to drive Southee straight down the ground for four.

Southee had swung left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar for three successive sixes to reach 50 maximums in Test cricket and bring the declaration on 250 for 9.

Ross Taylor made his 12th Test century and his first against Pakistan. Taylor and Craig put on 60 for the seventh wicket at almost four an over, before departing in the space of three balls to give the legspinner Yasir Shah his maiden Test five-for.

Pakistan had an early chance when Craig edged Rahat Ali low to first slip, but Taufeeq spilled the straightforward chance. Craig was on 7 then, and went on to make 34.

Taylor carried on from last evening, when he had used the cut against spin liberally. He reached his century off 129 deliveries to equal John Wright for the second-most Test hundreds for New Zealand. His pace of scoring allowed New Zealand to set a sporting target, but there was only one result Pakistan were looking at from 75 for 4.

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