Recent Match Report – New Zealand vs Pakistan 2nd Test 2022/23

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New Zealand 449 (Conway 122, Latham 71, Abrar 4-149) and 277 for 5 dec (Bracewell 74*, Blundell 74, Hamza 1-38) drew with Pakistan 408 (Shakeel 125*, Imam 83, Ajaz 3-88) and 304 for 9 (Sarfaraz 118, Masood 35, Bracewell 4-75)

An epic fourth-innings century to cap off a dream comeback series. The set batter getting severe cramps, and also running out of partners. Artificial light taking over. A late wicket just after the second new ball. Eight down. Nervous expressions in the crowd. The light meter in business. Only spinners allowed to bowl. A good low catch at a crucial moment. Nine down. The umpire asking the last two batters to hurry up. Eventually, it was all for nothing, as a thrilling Test ended in a draw with New Zealand one wicket away, and Pakistan 15 short of their target of 319.

Sarfaraz Ahmed hit a career-best 118, Michael Bracewell grabbed four wickets, and the Pakistan lower order came to their rescue in a nail-biting finish in Karachi. Ten days of hard fought cricket resulted in a series scoreline of 0-0 as Naseem Shah and Abrar Ahmed saw off the last 21 balls of the day with all 11 New Zealand fielders crowding their bat.
The match kept turning and twisting in its final two sessions. Pakistan were 80 for 5 at one stage, with momentum in New Zealand’s favour; just then, Sarfaraz and Saud Shakeel blunted them with a 123-run stand. And when Pakistan seemed to have taken one step towards the win, Bracewell got Shakeel. He was the sixth wicket to fall with the score on 203. That is when Sarfaraz and Agha Salman added 70 to drag their side back, only for the partnership to end with an across-the-line hoick off Matt Henry.

Sarfaraz lost Salman and Hasan Ali and eventually himself as well as the pendulum kept swinging. Bad light won the battle in the end, with three overs still left officially; this, after play had already extended almost until 6pm local time.

Adjudged Player of the Match, and also Player of the Series for 335 runs at 83.75, Sarfaraz was playing his first Tests in Pakistan. Imagine that. At the age of 35. Making a comeback into the side after nearly four years in the wilderness. And almost leading them to one of their most famous wins ever, at the city of his birth. The fairytale wasn’t to be – he turned one into leg slip’s hands off Bracewell, and became the ninth wicket to fall – but he has done his reputation no harm. Sarfaraz remains one of Pakistan’s great fighters.

Michael Bracewell cracked the game open with 4 for 75•Associated Press

Karachi. Fading light. And a thrilling run-chase. It’s all happened before and it was happening again. Except, at the end of the 86th over, it became clear that New Zealand were really the only team that could win. Because at that point the umpires went up to Tim Southee and said he couldn’t bowl his fast bowlers anymore. The light wasn’t good enough for that. He resorted to spin, but if he thought Pakistan were getting too close to the target, he could have brought back his quicks, at which point the umpires would’ve been forced to stop the game and call it a draw.

There could be debate around Shakeel’s approach, who – like in the first innings – kept bunting and blocking his way to 32 off 146 balls even as time seemed to running out. His first real shot of intent came off the ball just before being dismissed, when he lofted Bracewell inside out over extra cover for four. When he went hacking next delivery, Daryl Mitchell grabbed a reflex catch moving to his left at slip. Sarfaraz still had one last frontline batter in Salman for company and together they made 70 runs off just 83 deliveries.

And so commanding did Sarfaraz look against spin after the tea break, that he pummelled Bracewell’s offbreaks for four and six off successive balls in the 64th over while using his trademark paddle sweep, before cracking two fours in a row in the 70th. That made Southee take Bracewell off and turn to his seamers on a fifth day pitch in the subcontinent. That’s a big tick in the batting team’s column.

Sodhi wasn’t used after tea despite the rough outside both Sarfaraz and Salman’s leg stump. Instead Ajaz Patel came on and took aim at the right-handers’ pads. Sarfaraz did well to counter that and while he was at the crease the target seemed well within reach. Both Pakistan and New Zealand raced against time but lost.

Who knew the day would end this way after Bracewell and Sodhi struck thrice together in the morning, though much of that was down to Pakistan’s batters either giving their wickets away or being unlucky. An adventurous Imam-ul-Haq was bowled after skipping down the track to Sodhi – the third time in four innings he was dismissed after charging down – while Babar Azam inside-edged to the wicketkeeper Tom Latham, who did well to move to his left despite being blinded by the batter. As for Shan Masood, he too decided that jumping out of the crease was the best way to go, only to be caught at mid-off off Bracewell. But an age seems to have passed since all that happened this morning – followed by a wicketless middle session – as ultimately, the match became a see-saw ride between two excited children, who had to go home after their parents – like the umpires in this Test – said enough was enough.

Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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