Missed chances cost Pakistan as Williamson ton sees New Zealand gain lead
KARACHI: Pakistan were let down by missed opportunities and New Zealand ensured they took advantage. The hosts’ wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed was in the midst of it all as he erred not once, but twice in attempts to stump Kane Williamson out.
The veteran batter went on to score his first hundred in two years as New Zealand overcame Pakistan’s mammoth first-innings total of 438 with ease on the third day of the opening Test here at the National Stadium on Wednesday.
Pakistan did strike in the closing minutes to expose New Zealand’s tail and the Tim Southee-led side will look to add on to a tiny two-run lead with four wickets in hand on the penultimate day. But with the playing surface deteriorating fast, it wouldn’t be too easy for the visitors.
“Since days one and two, the pitch is probably at its best,” New Zealand opener Tom Latham said during the post-day press conference.
“It is starting to take little bit more turn and especially out of footmarks. So it’s not going to get any easier to bat on, and from the position we are in, we will try to get as many runs as possible to put Pakistan under pressure.”
Williamson, who was conservative in his approach after Pakistan had struck in the first session to dismiss opener Devon Conway, took 47 balls to score his first boundary. On the next ball, he was ruled out lbw off leg-spinner Mohammad Abrar before challenging the field umpire’s decision to get it reversed.
The right-hander got his first reprieve at 15, when he missed a flick and the ball beat Sarfraz behind the stumps with Williamson well out of the crease.
Sarfraz missed out again, this time on an easier chance, with Williamson on 21, as the wicket-keeper failed to dislodge the stumps after the former New Zealand skipper lost his balance in an attempt to play a drive off Nauman Ali.
Now more comfortable on the crease, Williamson danced down the track to smash one over the left-arm spinner’s head to get his second boundary. He then took on both Abrar and Nauman for five more boundaries to reach his 34th Test fifty.
Pakistan had an economic few overs before tea, but Williamson continued his onslaught on the hosts’ spinners after the break and soon reached his 25th hundred — his first ton since January 2021.
The 32-year-old was ably supported by a 47-ball 42 by Daryl Mitchell after New Zealand had lost Latham — after the left-hander had scored a hundred and Henry Nicholls, who played on Nauman onto his stumps to get dismissed at 22.
Mitchell started off with a four and six in the first six deliveries that he faced and dispatched Pakistan pacer Mohammad Wasim for four consecutive boundaries four overs later before a reverse sweep off Abrar ended his innings and his quickfire 65-run fourth-wicket partnership with Williamson.
It was then Tom Blundell’s turn to fortify New Zealand’s position. The wicket-keeper batter demonstrated balance between attack and defense and used his feet with precision to score boundaries.
By the time he ended his stay on the crease, he had faced 116 balls for his 47, an innings that was studded with three fours and a six. With Williamson, he added 90 runs to New Zealand’s total before Wasim trapped him lbw.
After Blundell’s departure, Pakistan got their sixth and last wicket of the day when tailender Michael Bracewell was caught after getting a leading edge off Abrar.
“I think they were chances but one of the deliveries was on the leg side and Sarfraz did his best,” Nauman said of the missed chances.
“This pitch is on the slow side so our effort will be to get the last four wickets early on day four and then set a good target of close to 200 — which will be good on this pitch.”
Williamson wasn’t the only New Zealand batter to benefit from Pakistan’s errors. Conway, too, could have been out on Tuesday had Pakistan taken a review when the left-hander was ruled not out by the field umpire despite getting caught behind off spinner Nauman. He managed 92.
Conway’s partner Latham, on the other hand, added 18 to his overnight tally to reach what was nearly a flawless hundred. Both openers, however, couldn’t extend their stays on the crease for long after reaching their hundreds.
Their 183-run partnership was broken when Conway was trapped leg-before by Nauman with a delivery that spun sharply to thump into the batters pads. Conway’s dismissal had to be confirmed through a DRS review.
Latham, who had showed sound technique throughout his innings, brought his knock to an end with a miscued reverse sweep off Abrar to get caught in the slips at 113.
Both openers were dismissed before lunch with Sarfraz designated as the Pakistan captain in the absence of Babar Azam, who was off the field due to flu along with Shan Masood and Salman Ali Agha. The skipper, however, returned on the field later in the day.
PAKISTAN (1st Innings) 438 (Babar Azam 161, Agha Salman 103; T. Southee 3-69)
NEW ZEALAND (1st Innings, overnight 165-0):
T. Latham c sub (Kamran) b Abrar 113
D. Conway lbw b Nauman 92
K. Williamson not out 105
H. Nicholls b Nauman 22
D. Mitchell c Sarfraz b Abrar 42
T. Blundell lbw b Wasim 47
M. Bracewell c Wasim b Abrar 5
I. Sodhi not out 1
EXTRAS (B-6, LB-6, NB-1) 13
TOTAL (for six wickets, 136 overs) 440
STILL TO BAT: T. Southee, N. Wagner, A. Patel
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-183 (Conway), 2-231 (Latham), 3-272 (Nicholls), 4-337 (Mitchell), 5-427 (Blundell), 6-436 (Bracewell)
BOWLING: Hamza 20-3-56-0, Wasim 24-3-81-1, Abrar 45-4-143-3, Nauman 44-2-137-2 (1nb), Babar 3-0-11-0.
Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2022