Pakistan top order piles up 566

CRICKET-UAE-PAK-NZLThe Pakistan batsmen continued their plunder in the UAE, their relentless accumulation spanning 171 overs snuffing out New Zealand’s hopes of victory and ensuring the visitors would face a severe trail by spin to save the first Test in Abu Dhabi. Their performance was the first time in Test cricket that all of the top-five batsmen made more than 80 in an innings; three of them went on to score hundreds that flattened a flagging New Zealand attack.

The home side’s achievements were numerous. Ahmed Shehzad improved his best Test score, and his 169-run stand with Azhar Ali made it the first time Pakistan had had two 150-plus partnerships for the first two wickets. Azhar went past 50 for the fourth time in five innings, Younis Khan made his fourth hundred in five innings, and Misbah-ul-Haq completed a hat-trick of centuries. Pakistan ended on 566 for 3 – the first time they had declared in four successive Test innings – and gave the weary New Zealand openers seven overs to survive.

Brendon McCullum, who was opening for New Zealand once again instead of Hamish Rutherford, and Tom Latham were able to negotiate a varied attack from Pakistan’s four specialist bowlers, but that did not take anything away from it being the home side’s day.

Pakistan had reason to celebrate in the first half-hour of the second day, as Shehzad pushed Trent Boult through cover to bring up the century stand with Azhar, who then clipped Tim Southee through midwicket to pass fifty. With no assistance for the seamers, McCullum turned to offspinner Mark Craig in the sixth over of the day, and it wasn’t long before Shehzad advanced and lofted him over the long-on boundary.

McCullum deployed unusual fields to try and conjure a wicket. During his second spell, Southee bowled with a slip, a short backward-point a silly mid-off and a short cover, and sometimes a silly mid-on too. He got the ball to reverse a bit, but Shehzad found the gap at cover with his drive to pass 150. While Shehzad had his aggressive moments, Azhar’s accumulation was serene. He swept, flicked and drove, scoring consistently against pace and spin.

New Zealand nearly completed their third wicketless session out of four, but in the final over before lunch Corey Anderson bowled a bouncer despite the wicketkeeper BJ Watling standing up to the stumps. Shehzad ducked under it. Two deliveries later, Anderson once again bounced Shehzad, who tried to hook and missed. The ball crashed into the right side of his helmet and caused Shehzad so much pain that he dropped his bat on the stumps as he wheeled away and collapsed to the ground. It was a while before he was able to get up and walk off to concerted applause from the sparse crowd, having made a career-best 176. Shehzad was taken to hospital where a CT scan revealed a minor fracture to his skull.

New Zealand had to wait 53 overs for their first wicket, another 63 for their second, but the third did not take as long. Azhar was on 87 when Ish Sodhi drifted a legbreak on to leg stump, beat the batsman in the length, and spun it sharply past the forward defence to hit off stump. It was an inspirational delivery, but it could not galvanise New Zealand, and their standards slumped further.

Younis glanced the seamers when they drifted on to his pads, swept Sodhi when given time to get down low and free his arms and pulled dismissively off the back foot when he dropped short. Seven of Younis’ first eight boundaries were between fine leg and deep midwicket.

Misbah went after Sodhi too, slogging him over the midwicket boundary, but the bowler was unlucky not to dismiss the Pakistan captain. After being swept for four, Sodhi induced a mis-hit from Misbah, but watched Craig mis-judge the catch at point. In his next over, Sodhi drew another miscue from Misbah, but Jimmy Neesham put down an absolute sitter at cover. Misbah responded by pulling the legspinner through midwicket and mid-on for boundaries, and even played a reverse sweep.

Pakistan scored 124 runs in the second session, and after tea Misbah and Younis motored unperturbed towards a declaration total. They were neck and neck in the race to a hundred – both were on 99 at one point. Younis got his off 141 balls, Misbah off 162, and they trooped off the ground with seven tired New Zealanders in tow.

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