Poor visibility ended a thrilling final session of cricket in the drawn first Test Friday after New Zealand had threatened to snatch victory following Pakistan’s daring declaration. Chasing 138 to win in 15 overs, New Zealand were at 61-1 in only the eighth over of the second innings when the Test ended early because of bad light.
Pakistan resumed after tea at 249-7 in its second innings with a lead of 75 and Kiwi legspinner Ish Sodhi (6-86) threatened to set up his team for victory. Left-handed Saud Shakeel made an unbeaten 55 and got plenty of support from the two tailenders, Mohammad Wasim (43) and Mir Hamza (3 not out). They did so well that Pakistan captain Babar Azam caught the visitors by surprise and declared at 311-8 late in the final session.
It set New Zealand, which scored 612-9 declared in the first innings, a tempting target and the visitors went for it. Tom Latham was unbeaten on 35 and Devon Conway was not out on 18 when the lights intervened to potentially save Pakistan from its fifth straight Test defeat at home.
“We wanted to get a result and that’s why we went for the declaration,? Babar said. “It’s cricket, you never know what happens, we took a chance, but the light was not good enough.”
Earlier, Pakistan’s middle-order had capitulated to 206-7 against Sodhi’s first five-for in Test matches and was ahead by only 32 runs before Shakeel came to the rescue. Pakistan was in big trouble when Sodhi had top-scorer Imam-ul-Haq stumped for 96 an hour before tea and exposed the tail, but Wasim (43) and Shakeel defied the spin threat of Sodhi, Michael Bracewell and Ajaz Patel with an aggressive 71-run eighth-wicket stand.
“A couple of good innings took the game to safety for them,” said Tim Southee, who took the New Zealand captaincy after Kane Williamson stepped down ahead of the Black Caps’ first Test tour to Pakistan in 20 years.
“It was an interesting declaration, but our intention was to chase it down.”
Sodhi again raised the visitors’ hopes when he had Wasim trapped leg before wicket off a flipper that thudded the batter’s pads on the backfoot with Pakistan stretching its lead to 103. However, Hamza, playing his first Test after four years, defended astutely before Babar announced.
Sodhi, recalled for the Test series after four years, had sliced through Pakistan’s batting after lunch while exploiting plenty of turn from the bowlers’ footmarks on a deteriorating fifth-day pitch. Imam and Sarfaraz Ahmed (53) had wiped out a huge first-innings deficit of 174 with an aggressive 85-run stand before both fell to Sodhi after lunch in quick succession.
First innings century-maker Agha Salman was also undone by Sodhi’s straight delivery that knocked back the stumps as Sodhi continued to pose a tough challenge to batters. The collapse started a ball after Sarfaraz followed his first-innings 86 with another fifty but played a reckless cut off a wayward delivery that caught the edge to wicketkeeper Tom Blundell.
Imam looked nervous in his 90s as he needlessly came out of his crease to reach his 100 with a big hit and got stumped. Imam, who scored three Test centuries in Pakistan this year, threw away his bat in anger before the left-hander walked inside the dressing room.
Sodhi had claimed captain Babar (14) lbw with a sharp googly off his first delivery on the final day before Sarfaraz and Imam dug in and nudged Pakistan ahead by seven runs in an extended 2-1/2 hour first session. Imam, resuming at 45, twice survived TV referrals against Sodhi while Sarfaraz was aggressive against spinners with his sweeps and reverse sweeps.
New Zealand spinners made early inroads to reduce Pakistan to 100-4 inside the first hour after Pakistan resumed on 77-2. Bracewell struck early when he had nightwatchman Nauman Ali trapped leg before wicket in the day’s third over off a full-pitched ball. Nauman couldn’t add to his overnight 4 as the ball hit low on his front pad after missing the inside edge.
Babar, who made 161 in Pakistan’s first innings score of 438, twice pulled Bracewell’s short balls for boundaries on the onside before he repeated a similar shot against Sodhi’s first ball of the day and was adjudged lbw. Sodhi bowled a perfect googly which kept a bit low as Babar unsuccessfully went for a television referral and walked back with Pakistan still trailing by 77 runs. The second Test begins at the same National Stadium from next Monday after it was shifted from Multan because of weather concerns. (With PTI inputs)