Williamson and McCullum build massive lead

New Zealand batted Pakistan out of the third and final Test in Sharjah, looting 388 runs on the third day for a lead of 286. Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson carried on in their unstoppable manner from last evening before the New Zealand captain fell just after his fourth double-century.

Williamson pushed on unruffled before he fell eight short of his maiden double. Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson and Tim Southee contributed fifties, the fast bowler and Mark Craig ransacking a deflated attack for a 91-run eighth-wicket stand. New Zealand ended on 637 for 8, their highest away total and third-highest overall. New Zealand scored 139 in 28 overs in the first session, 100 in 26 in the second, and added another 149 in 31 in the third.

Before the start of the day’s play, McCullum read out a statement on behalf of his team, saying that their focus for now was not on their performances, but on Australia batsman Phillip Hughes, who died two days ago.

McCullum’s 202 off 188 deliveries was the fourth-fastest double-century in Tests in terms of balls faced. He also became the only New Zealander to make four Test double-hundreds, and the fourth man overall to make three in a year after Don Bradman, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke.

The partnership of 297 in 52.5 overs between McCullum and Williamson was New Zealand’s highest for the second wicket. It was young Williamson who resumed New Zealand’s charge in the morning. He punched and pulled Mohammad Talha and Rahat Ali for two fours each in their opening overs.

Talha had paid dearly for overdoing the short ball on day two, but he used the length again despite no help from the pitch. When he pitched it up for McCullum’s first ball of the day, he immediately found some reverse into the batsman, only for an inside edge to run fine for four. McCullum’s response was typical of the way he had batted. He jumped out next ball and swung a huge straight six.

McCullum’s defence was that of a batsman in limited-overs acceleration mode. His first instinct was to set himself up to attack, and he adjusted late to stab out deliveries he felt he could not put away.

Williamson was rock solid and calm in everything he did. He defended and attacked with absolute control. Talha reversed some into him, but Williamson clipped one of those to the deep midwicket rope to reach his century off 124 balls. It was another emotional moment for Williamson in the aftermath of Hughes‘ demise, and his captain was at hand to offer a warm embrace as the young batsman marked the hundred with a quiet raise of the bat.

The first eight overs from the fast bowlers before spin was introduced cost 53 runs. McCullum was quiet for a short while against the spinners, but burst into action again after drinks. First ball of the second hour, he cracked Zulfiqar Babar to the deep extra cover boundary. The next ball was lofted for six in the same region. The double-hundred came first ball of the next over as McCullum charged at Yasir Shah and hit him for a straight six. He was gone two deliveries later, bowled round his legs as he missed a sweep off the legspinner.

Taylor made a laboured half-century but he helped Williamson add 116 for the third wicket. The legspinner Yasir troubled Taylor the most. A slog-sweep flew for six but another was top-edged, only to fall at vacant midwicket. The slowness of the pitch, however, allowed Taylor to stand on the crease and push away even full deliveries.

Taylor nicked a Talha lifter to the wicketkeeper down the leg side on 49 but the fast bowler suffered for bowling his fifth no-ball. Not afforded much room to play his favoured cut, Taylor tried the shot against Yasir in the next over, and it ended in slip’s hands.

The Pakistan spinners had been able to string together a ten-over boundary-less period after lunch, but Williamson ended that with a couple of fours off Yasir, stepping out and driving straight to move past 150. The second new ball was taken in the 85th over, and Williamson welcomed it with more drives and pulls. He went first ball after tea, though, prodding at a Rahat delivery leaving him on the angle, and edging to slip.

Anderson ensured there was no let-up for Pakistan as he powered nine boundaries to make 50 off 57. Southee joined in the fun, a couple of blows making it 19 sixes for the innings, another record. Mohammad Hafeez, the only one to keep McCullum in check on day two, was brought on only after tea. He had to go through the frustration of seeing Babar put down Southee at long-on on 36. The fast bowler finally holed out off Yasir, and with six overs to go, Misbah’s ploy to bring on Rahat halted Pakistan’s misery in fading light.

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