Shakeel’s maiden ton drives Pakistan but New Zealand make late advances in tussle for lead
Ajaz Patel and Ish Sodhi strike quick blows in fading light to hurt Pakistan
Pakistan 407 for 9 (Shakeel 124*, Imam 83, Sarfaraz 78, Ajaz 3-88) trail New Zealand 449 by 42 runs
Tom Latham shelled two catches as the second Test in Karachi saw an otherwise tame third day’s play end with New Zealand bagging a flurry of wickets. Pakistan lost four wickets for 12 runs in a lower-order collapse in fading light, but Saud Shakeel was still undefeated on a solid 124 from 336 deliveries, his maiden Test century.
Eventually, the day ended with New Zealand 42 ahead, with Pakistan having only one wicket remaining on a flat Karachi surface that is yet to see any sort of deterioration. The hosts, too, have been happy to bide time and test the bowlers’ patience. They added only 70 runs in 31 overs in the final session, 34 of which came in the last ten overs of the day.
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After tea, Shakeel faced 94 balls and scored only 23 runs. Overall, he let go of 66 out of the 111 deliveries that landed outside off from the pace bowlers in his entire innings. The only time he seemed to poke outside off and away from his body, Latham dropped a simple catch while going reverse-cupped at short point just after being brought in to stand exactly at that position. Shakeel was on 102 at the time.
The grind from Shakeel and Agha Salman meant they added only 53 in 25 overs before Ajaz Patel finally broke the stand, though that was down to sharp catching by Michael Bracewell at slip. Salman went to sweep Ajaz, only for the ball to take a little top edge, hit his right shoulder, and pop towards Bracewell, who went first went to his left, considering the shot and the bowler’s around-the-wicket angle, only to immediately skip to his right to grab that on the second attempt even after tumbling down.
That opened the door for a bunch of late wickets, as Hasan Ali swung Ajaz in the 127th over to deep midwicket, where Devon Conway snapped up a smart catch close to the ropes. Four balls later, Latham, at silly point to Ajaz, saw a push from Naseem Shah hit his right hand and fall off. It was, however, a tough chance with a lack of reaction time.
But two overs later, Ish Sodhi joined in on the fun when he removed Naseem and Mir Hamza off successive balls, cleaning both of them up using the googly and the legspinner, respectively. But Shakeel and last man Abrar Ahmed saw off the day for Pakistan.
Pakistan had earlier scored rather rapidly in the second session, which fetched them 113 runs at more than four an over. Much of that was down to Sarfaraz Ahmed, who hit an entertaining 78 to keep piling runs on comeback.
He got to his third fifty in a row off 61 balls, especially targetting Ajaz, off whom he picked 22 off 16 deliveries. Sarfaraz even negated any possible movement with the second new ball by walking down and getting across off to play Southee. And it took some nimble glovework by Tom Blundell to stump Sarfaraz minutes before tea, with the third umpire checking multiple replays from various angles before ruling it out.
He had missed a delivery angling down leg off Daryl Mitchell, and lost balance. Eventually, his back leg ended close to his front leg, which he tried to drag back, only for Blundell to whip the bails off despite taking the ball well down the leg side. That came just two balls after Sarfaraz had been saved by the DRS when umpire Alex Wharf had ruled him out leg before wicket off Mitchell’s first delivery.
Earlier in the day, Imam-ul-Haq missed out on a century for a second successive time, falling for 83 as Southee broke the solid 83-run stand between Imam and Shakeel when he forced the former to play away from his body, with replays showing a faint nick off the toe end of the bat. Sarfaraz came out to bat after Imam fell, and got into some cat-and-mouse stuff with Sodhi. The legspinner beat Sarfaraz off the first ball he bowled to him, but ended up conceding 25 off the 32 balls he bowled to him.
But both spinners Sodhi and Ajaz got into the action as the third day neared its end, leaving New Zealand with an opportunity of a meagre first-innings advantage even with no demons in the pitch yet.
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