Pakistan 30 for 1 (Abid 19*, Abbas 0*, Jamieson 1-5) trail New Zealand 431 (Williamson 129, Watling 73, Taylor 70, Nicholls 56, Afridi 4-109, Yasir 3-113) by 401 runs
The wicket of Shan Masood late in the evening ensured New Zealand remained the happier team at Mount Maunganui, but Pakistan put in a second impressive day on an improved batting pitch to ensure the hosts haven’t run away with the game just yet.
Having bowled New Zealand out 11 overs after tea for 431, Pakistan were left needing to negotiate a tricky 20 overs before stumps, and they came close to getting through that period unscathed, only for Shan Masood to tickle Kyle Jamieson for a catch down leg side in the 16th over, having seen out 41 balls until then.
Masood had offered the only chance until that point, driving well in front of his body against a Tim Southee delivery that swung back less than he anticipated, and edging to third slip, where the substitute fielder Daryl Mitchell put down a tough low chance.
That and the wicket ball apart, there were few alarms for Pakistan against New Zealand’s pace attack, with Abid Ali looking particularly impressive with his judgment outside off and his alertness to pounce on scoring opportunities. He ended the day batting on 19, with the nightwatchman Mohammad Abbas alongside.
Apart from the visual evidence of the ball swinging and seaming far less than it had done on day one, there was numerical evidence to support the idea that the pitch was getting better to bat on. Where New Zealand’s batsmen achieved a control percentage of 76 through the first 20 overs of their innings, Pakistan’s top three went at 88.
Rather than seam movement, the main threat from this pitch now seems to be the increased frequency of uncertain bounce – low bounce in particular – and sharp turn for the spinners. Yasir Shah picked up three wickets in New Zealand’s first innings, and he could become hugely influential if Pakistan can get close to New Zealand’s first-innings total. They’ll have to contend with Mitchell Santner’s left-arm spin before that, however, and the continued threat of New Zealand’s quicks – especially the effect of uncertain bounce on Neil Wagner’s short ball.
Wagner bowled three overs before stumps, despite having suffered a painful blow to the toe from a Shaheen Afridi yorker while batting. Wagner is set to have his foot x-rayed after the day’s play, and New Zealand will hope it won’t reveal any major damage.
That yorker from Shaheen followed another that burst through Wagner’s defences to bowl him, only for replays to show the bowler had overstepped. Wagner contributed 19 to a lower-order effort that stretched New Zealand’s total to 431 after Pakistan had reduced them to 317 for 6 at one stage.
Chief architects of the lower-order fight were the tiny-and-towering pair of BJ Watling and Jamieson, who added 66 for the seventh wicket in 22 overs to build on the efforts of the upper middle order, in particular Kane Williamson who completed his 23rd Test hundred earlier in the day.
Their partnership, which spanned 22 overs, came to an end in the third over before tea, when Mohammad Abbas extracted bounce and an unusual amount of seam movement in the corridor to get Jamieson to nick off. It was one of a handful of deliveries that had moved as much all day, and it brought Abbas a much-deserved first wicket in his 29th over of the innings.
Until then, Watling and Jamieson had looked mostly untroubled against all of Pakistan’s bowlers, save for a brief period early in the partnership when Yasir was engaged in a cat-and-mouse contest against Jamieson. The legspinner dared Jamieson to hit over the top with a series of loopy tempters – there were two towering sixes, but also a wild slog and miss – and wrong-footed him on a couple of occasions with his quicker skidder, with an inside edge saving the crease-bound batsman from a possible lbw on one occasion.
Other than that, though, Jamieson showed the same gifts of technique and composure that had brought him scores of 44, 49, 51* and 20 in his four previous Test innings, and got into good positions to defend the faster bowlers in particular. At the other end, Watling was typically compact in defence while cashing in quickly whenever there was width on offer. He was also adept in getting off strike against Yasir, waiting for the line to drift either side of the stumps to get down on one knee and sweep.
There were a couple of flowing drives too, most impressively an effortless straight punch off Faheem Ashraf that beat a diving mid-on to his left. He was finally dismissed for 73, getting cramped for room while trying to ramp a short ball over the slips, handing Afridi his fourth wicket.
Abbas and Afridi began the day with a seven-over-old ball, but neither found any swing, and what seam movement there was was minimal.
Their lines, as a result, were more defensive than on day one, wider outside off in an attempt to play on the batsmen’s patience. Neither of the overnight batsmen lacked that quality, and Williamson, on 94 overnight, waited until his 14th ball of the morning to add to his score.
Pakistan made their first bowling change in the eighth over of the morning, and that gave Williamson the opportunity to bring up his hundred, with Naseem Shah overpitching and allowing him to unfurl the most pleasing of drives to bisect extra-cover and mid-off. This was Williamson’s first Test hundred in his hometown, and having brought it up he immediately switched gears, having sussed out that there was little in the pitch to threaten him.
He began driving balls that weren’t quite half-volleys, picking up two off-side fours in this manner off successive balls from Abbas, and then beat mid-off to his left with a back-foot punch off Naseem, finishing with left elbow high and both feet off the ground. Having taken 261 balls to bring up his hundred – his slowest in Test cricket – Williamson had scored 20 off his next 20.
But Pakistan clawed their way back, with a bit of luck finally going their way with the dismissal of Henry Nicholls, after he had extended his overnight partnership with Williamson from 89 to 133. Pakistan had been trying to attack Nicholls with the short ball, and Naseem produced a loud caught-behind shout when he hurried the batsman through a hook from around the wicket. It was given out, perhaps because there seemed to be two noises, and Nicholls, after a lengthy consultation with his partner, declined to review, only for replays to show the ball had brushed both his forearms without hitting bat or glove.
Then Pakistan brought on Yasir in the 18th over of the day, and he struck with his third ball, drawing Williamson forward with his flight, and finding the edge of his defensive bat with dip, turn and bounce. As with most Williamson edges, the ball barely carried, but Haris Sohail took a sharp one-handed catch diving to his right – it was referred upstairs by the on-field umpires, who made a soft signal of not-out, but replays showed that Sohail had got his fingers underneath the ball as he fell.
Watling and Mitchell Santner then added 36 before Ashraf struck in the eighth over after lunch, getting him caught behind after preying on Santner’s tendency to play angled-bat shots to rising balls in the corridor.
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