Debutant left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel (5/59) helped New Zealand construct a breathtaking come-from-behind four-run victory against Pakistan on the fourth day of the opening Test at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Monday (November 21). This was only the second time New Zealand have defended a total of under 200 in this format.Chasing 176, Pakistan resumed Day 4 on 37/0 and were well placed at 130 for 3 at one stage, but that’s when Ajaz and Neil Wagner joined hands to wreak mayhem. Despite Azhar Ali’s (65) gritty effort, Pakistan were bundled out for 171 in 58.4 overs, giving New Zealand a spectacular victory.
Ajaz provided New Zealand the first breakthrough when he trapped overnight batsman Imam-ul-Haq for 27 before legspinner Ish Sodhi got rid of Mohammad Hafeez (10) and Haris Sohail (4) in the very next over to open up the game for the visiting side.
Azhar and Asad Shafiq, however, added 82 runs for the fourth wicket to once again put Pakistan on top. Two of Pakistan’s most experienced batsmen focused more on strike rotation and also found occasional boundaries to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Just when it looked like the two would take the game away from New Zealand, their workhorse Wagner dismissed Shafiq for 45 with a solid gameplan. The left-arm paceman kept bowling short at him and Shafiq’s eyes lit up when he saw one delivery on the good length and went after it only to end up edging it to the wicketkeeper.
It was New Zealand who lost their last five wickets for 29 runs yesterday, and it was Pakistan who were on the receiving end today. Babar Azam (13) stuck for a while before being run out, and that when wickets started to tumble. Ajaz and Wagner bowled with intent and removed Sarfraz Ahmed (3), Bilal Asif (0), Yasir Shah (0) and Hasan Ali (0) in no time to leave Pakistan in a complete mess.
Despite wickets falling at the other end, Azhar kept one end intact and brought up his 30th Test fifty in this format. With 12 runs needed and a wicket to spare, Azhar kept most of the strike and focused just on picking up singles in the fifth or sixth delivery of the over. No. 11 batsman Mohammad Abbas, meanwhile, did his job by playing out 10 deliveries.
With just four runs needed, it was once again Ajaz who pinned Azhar right in front of the stumps to draw curtains on Pakistan’s innings.
Earlier, New Zealand were bowled out for just 153 in their first innings. Their bowlers then restricted Pakistan for 227, who managed a 74-run lead. The touring side came up with a slightly better performance, courtesy Henry Nicholls and BJ Watling, in their second dig but a lower-order collapse meant they could only set 176-run target for Pakistan, which at the end proved to be just enough.
The second Test will be played at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium from November 24.
First Published: November 19, 2018, 4:24 PM IST