Recent Match Report – Pakistan vs New Zealand 1st Test 2022/23

New Zealand 440 for 6 (Latham 113, Williamson 105*, Conway 92 , Abrar 4-143) lead Pakistan 438 (Babar 161, Salman 103*, Sarfaraz 86, Southee 3-69) by 2 runs

New Zealand’s batters, led by Kane Williamson, made Pakistan toil for most of day three in Karachi. However, the hosts struck back in the final 30 minutes to eventually share the day’s honours.

Starting the day on 165 for 0, New Zealand finished on 440 for 6, two runs ahead of Pakistan’s first-innings score. With Pakistan having the momentum at stumps, the game stands in a tantalising position with two days to go and a tricky pitch to deal with.

Williamson finished the day unbeaten on 105. He was supported by Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell and though neither man got even as far as a half-century, their aggression allowed Williamson to quietly build on his score. In the morning, Tom Latham added to his overnight score of 78 to post his 13th Test century.
Mitchell shellacked 42 runs in 47 balls after walking in at No. 5 in the middle session. He used the reverse-sweep to get his boundary-scoring underway before graduating to playing more conventional shots in the V. Nauman Ali was launched for six and four down the ground while Mohammad Wasim bore the brunt of even more aggression, hit for four boundaries in four deliveries.
Blundell, on the other hand, was a much less assured presence at the crease. He rode his luck coming down the track to the Pakistan spinners, Nauman and Abrar Ahmed, who bowled in tandem for long spells through the day. The New Zealand No. 6 was the aggressor after tea, targeting he leg side for most of his boundaries. His battle with Nauman was fascinating, with the left-arm spinner getting the ball to turn across him, leading to innumerable leading edges and sliced shots that went to the off-side instead, including one when he was on 41 that saw two fielders try to take a catch with neither committing to it. Eventually, the missed Blundell chance did not cost Pakistan much with the wicketkeeper-batter falling lbw for 47 to Wasim’s reverse-swing late in the day.

Nauman created more chances earlier in the day. Had they been converted, his figures would have looked a lot better than 2 for 137 and Pakistan might well be in control of the whole Test match. He had bowled beautifully to force errors from Williamson when the batter was on 15 and 21, however both times Sarfaraz Ahmed could not pull off the stumping. In fairness to the wicketkeeper, they were moderately tough chances.

Nauman Ali bowled better than his figures – 2 for 137 – suggest•AFP

Williamson, batting for the first time since giving up the Test captaincy, made his entry in the day’s sixth over following Devon Conway’s dismissal for 92. After a 183-run opening partnership with Latham, Conway was out lbw to Nauman, trapped inside his crease on the back foot. At first, Conway was deemed not out by umpire Aleem Dar but the decision was overturned on review.

However, Latham fell before lunch trying to play a reverse sweep off Abrar that popped up to first slip. Abrar’s second wicket of the day – that of Mitchell – also came via a reverse sweep that went wrong.

Williamson had a watchful start to his innings, trying to find his feet following a lean recent run with the bat. He relied on the sweep to get his early runs, but as the ball got old, he pounced on Abrar’s inconsistency to hit him for three fours through midwicket in the space of seven balls. That pushed him into the 40s, and soon after reached his fifty by punching to extra cover.

After a brief 41-run stand with No. 4 Henry Nicholls ended with the left-hand batter chopping Nauman onto his stumps, Williamson took a back seat with Mitchell leading the run-scoring charge. That allowed him to quietly move into the 70s, which he further added to, once Blundell brought out his strokes. The only time Williamson really went for the big shots was when the spinners pitched it up outside off. Otherwise, he relied on his nudges and nurdles to get the bulk of his runs.

It was late in the day when Williamson reached his century – his 25th in Tests, fifth against Pakistan and first since his 238 in January 2021 against the same opponents. He drove Wasim to mid-off in the 123rd over and reached his landmark. However that wasn’t the end of the day’s action. Michael Bracewell fell late in the day leaving Ish Sodhi, the No. 8, to face 20 balls in a tricky spell of play to stay unbeaten on 1 alongside Williamson.

While the end of the day provided a zenith for Williamson, the start of the day completed a redemption arc for another former Test captain. Sarfaraz was asked to lead Pakistan in the morning session with Babar Azam one of three players down with viral flu like symptoms. And even though Babar returned after lunch, Sarfaraz’s brief spell in charge completed a full circle for the man who was dropped from captaincy, and the team, since his last Test appearance in January 2019.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx

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