Pakistan 239 and 71 for 3 (Azhar 34*, Alam 21*, Southee 2-15) need another 302 runs to beat New Zealand 431 and 180 for 5 dec (Blundell 64, Latham 53, Naseem 3-55)
Tim Southee‘s 300th Test wicket was the highlight of a quality seam-bowling display that left New Zealand seven wickets away from winning the Mount Maunganui Test. Having declared 20 minutes before tea to leave Pakistan more than four sessions to bat out and an improbable 373 to win, New Zealand used the new ball brilliantly to leave Pakistan three down at stumps.
The older ball did not do a great deal off the surface in terms of sideways movement, though up-and-down bounce was a constant worry at the back of the batsmen’s minds. With that in mind, Azhar Ali and Fawad Alam did well to see off the last 20.1 overs of the day, seeing off testing spells from New Zealand’s pace quartet.
With Pakistan’s bowlers having extracted minimal help in the morning, it was clear that the pitch had flattened out significantly and not deteriorated to a great extent. It was crucial for New Zealand to maximise the new ball, but there was little doubt they would, with Southee and Trent Boult in charge of it.
They took just 14 balls to dismiss both openers for no score.
Boult removed Abid Ali with his second ball, getting it to climb disconcertingly from just short of a length, with the pace, the tight line and the left-arm angle leaving the batsman nowhere to go. All he could do from his initial forward press was to fend desperately at the throat-high ball, and glove it through to the keeper.
An over later, it was Southee’s turn to celebrate, after sending back Shan Masood by subtler means. Having moved the previous ball back into the left-hander from around the wicket, he bowled a cross-seam delivery that just kept going on straight along its line in the corridor. Never the most extravagant mover of feet, Masood poked at it and edged to first slip.
Either side of the tea break, Azhar and Haris Sohail hung on for 15.3 overs against some probing bowling, with the former looking in excellent rhythm as he got his innings going with a pair of confident drives down the ground. The drives, and a clipped two between mid-on and midwicket off Boult in the 12th over of the innings, showed how balanced Azhar was at the crease – a feature of his innings so far, in attack and more so in defence.
Haris, however, was less certain, with his lack of footwork keeping the New Zealand bowlers interested. Southee exploited it brilliantly, setting him up with a rising short ball – which he kept down fairly comfortably – and following up with a full, driving-length ball that Haris failed to get his front foot to. Mitchell Santner took a low catch at short extra-cover, and Southee had become the third New Zealander, after Richard Hadlee and Daniel Vettori, to the 300 mark.
New Zealand began their second innings at the start of the day’s play, with much interest surrounding the conditions. Over the 45.3 overs they played before declaring, only the occasional instance of uncertain bounce gave the batsmen cause for worry.
Mohammad Abbas looked the most threatening of Pakistan’s bowlers during his new-ball spell, testing the openers’ judgement with tight lines around off stump, and just a hint of seam movement. Slanting the ball across Tom Latham, he produced the only passage of play when ball dominated bat, finding the left-hander’s edge three times in two overs only for the ball to fall short of the slips cordon each time.
The openers endured only one other moment of genuine concern thereafter, when Faheem Ashraf got one to scoot through at ankle height and sneak under a drive from Tom Blundell, missing off stump by a matter of inches.
Otherwise it was smooth sailing during a first-wicket stand of 111, with Blundell making an impressive comeback into the runs after scores of 14, 14 and 5 in his first three Test innings of the summer. He seemed to get into better positions than during the first innings, with a more pronounced back-and-across trigger helping him break his inertia and get his feet moving.
He took a little time settling, with the lack of pace off the pitch causing him to mistime a few of his drives, but after the drinks break he flowed smoothly, looking especially strong on the pull and the cut, and reached his fifty off 87 balls.
Latham grew increasingly assured the longer he stayed at the crease, and used the sweep efficiently as always, with Yasir Shah getting little of the sharp turn or bounce that he extracted during the first innings. After six overs in the first session, he wasn’t seen again.
Leading by 290 at lunch, New Zealand made a concerted effort to up the ante after the break, with Blundell showing their intent by slogging at Abbas and having his leg stump dislodged. The singles flowed smoothly against deep-set fields, and there were frequent attempts to go hard at the bowling too, particularly when Pakistan switched tack to bowling short. Naseem Shah picked up three wickets in the bargain, a small consolation for an otherwise miserable day for the visitors.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo