Late strikes boost NZ as Pakistan chase 319 on final day
A 120-run stand between Blundell and Bracewell lifts New Zealand to 277, before Pakistan lose two wickets by stumps
Tom Blundell goes low to have a push, Pakistan vs New Zealand, 2nd Test, Karachi, 4th day, January 5, 2023
Tom Blundell’s 74 helped New Zealand set a target of 319
Stumps Pakistan 408 and 0 for 2 (Sodhi 1-0, Southee 1-0) need 319 runs to beat New Zealand 449 and 277 for 5 dec (Bracewell 74*, Blundell 74)
Some enterprising batting after tea, a late declaration from Tim Southee, and two Pakistan wickets in the final ten minutes of the fourth day gave New Zealand a massive advantage going into day five.
On the last day of the deadlocked Test series, New Zealand will need eight wickets to win while Pakistan need to either score 319 – a record target on Pakistan grounds – or survive a maximum of 90 overs.
New Zealand won two of the three sessions, starting off by dismissing Pakistan’s overnight No. 11 inside the first over to take a 41-run lead. After that, Tom Latham (62), Kane Williamson (41), Tom Blundell (74) and Michael Bracewell (74*) made useful batting contributions to take their innings forward.
The way Blundell and Bracewell batted in the third session would’ve deflated Pakistan, however. Pakistan took three top-order wickets in quick succession after lunch to dream of possibly chasing a lower target, but the Blundell-Bracewell duo put on 120 for the fifth wicket. That helped New Zealand eventually declare on 277 for 5 and set a target of 319.
Then, Pakistan, left with three overs to bat before stumps, lived their worst-case scenario. Abdullah Shafique was bowled by Southee for a duck and Mir Hamza also went for zero courtesy an Ish Sodhi ripper. Pakistan ended the day at 0 for 2.
The day had also begun for Pakistan poorly, lasting only one over with the bat on the fourth morning to be bowled for 408 and conceding a 41-run deficit. Even though Hamza dismissed Devon Conway with a first-ball duck, Latham and Williamson used their sweeps, and the latter his shots straight back, to put on a partnership of 109.
Latham and Williamson then looked to extend New Zealand’s lead, but both were dismissed in a frenetic period of play. Latham, on 57, was caught on the back foot off Abrar Ahmed around the stumps, but survived an lbw dismissal since Pakistan, with only one review in hand, did not go up after umpire Alex Wharf turned it down.
That decision from Babar Azam did not hurt Pakistan, though, since Latham was out for 62 next over trying to flick Naseem Shah off his hips, only to hit it to the left of a diving Abrar at short midwicket. The new batter Nicholls then survived a caught-behind decision from umpire Aleem Dar, but his review changed the decision after no edge was detected.
Shan Masood at leg slip can’t hold on to a chance to get Michael Bracewell, Pakistan vs New Zealand, 2nd Test, Karachi, 4th day, January 5, 2023
Shan Masood at leg slip can’t hold on to a chance to get Michael Bracewell•AP
Abrar, now high on confidence after the Latham catch, then trapped Williamson going for the sweep. Williamson went up to review, and was deemed out by the faintest of margins with the ball clipping the outside half of leg stump. Blundell then was given out lbw by Wharf first ball courtesy an Abrar googly, but his review saved him, with a spike coming up on replay.
Blundell made the most of that chance, and a dropped catch by the wicketkeeper and Agha Salman at first slip, to motor along to his ninth half-century. It was a forgettable day for Sarfaraz, who dropped a total of three chances.
Bracewell, meanwhile, made a streaky start, genuinely struggling against the Abrar googly from around the stumps. But he hung in there and built on the longer the partnership grew in the final session.
Bracewell really showed his wares after the 75th over when New Zealand’s lead had touched 270. At the time, he was on 45 in 99 balls, but then smacked Abrar for back-to-back fours to reach his maiden Test fifty. While Blundell fell for 74 trying to slog another boundary, Bracewell remained unbeaten on 74. New Zealand could’ve batted out the day, but with the light dying, they preferred to bowl three overs at Pakistan. That proved to be deadly for the hosts under trying conditions.