Black Caps fight back in first test against Pakistan

Author
Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Sunday, 18 November 2018, 1:59PM
Trent Boult celebrates one of his four wickets against Pakistan. (Photo / Photosport)

LISTEN TO NEIL WAGNER TALK WITH MARTIN DEVLIN ABOVE

Inspired bowling from Trent Boult has put the Black Caps back in the hunt after day two of their first test against Pakistan.

Rolled for 153 on the opening day, the Black Caps responded by dismissing Pakistan for 227 shortly after tea on day two, twice pegging the hosts back from potentially dominant positions.

The visitors then reached stumps at 56-1 – a deficit of just 18 runs, with Kane Williamson (27) and Jeet Raval (26) combining well after Tom Latham watched his off-stump cartwheel out of the ground for a golden duck.

Make no mistake – this test is still Pakistan's to lose – but with the hosts having to bat last on a deteriorating wicket which is already offering plenty for the bowlers, there could be some nervous times ahead - if the Black Caps can perform with the bat.

That'll be the big question for day three, but the fact that it is even worth posing is a testament to the major turnaround spearheaded by Boult.

At 91-2 and later 174-4, Pakistan looked set to build a significant first innings advantage, but on both occasions, the Black Caps struck in quick succession.

Boult was heavily involved throughout, giving the batsmen no respite and making the major breakthroughs to put the visitors back in the contest. His figures of 4-54 moved him past Chris Cairns to fourth all-time on the New Zealand test wicket taking charts with 219 scalps — and the pair he claimed early on day two were both crucial.

The wicket of Asad Shafiq — after he and Babar Azam had added 83 for the fifth wicket — gave the Black Caps a second chance, after they had earlier manufactured — then lost — a brief glimmer of hope.

Pakistan started the day at 59-2 and Boult immediately had Azhar Ali in knots, with the veteran batsman initially surviving only thanks to a dropped catch from Raval and a series of fortunately placed edges.

While it was Ish Sodhi who made the breakthrough with a full toss that somehow fooled Haris Sohail into chipping a catch straight to Latham at short mid-wicket, Boult finally had his man an over later.

Bowling across the body of Ali, Boult pitched the ball up and forced Ali on to the drive. He got a thick edge, and BJ Watling was up to the task, taking a superb one-handed diving catch behind the stumps to put Pakistan in a spot of strife.

From 91-2, Pakistan were suddenly 91-4, with only one recognised batsman left in the sheds. A further wicket or two before lunch would have given the Black Caps a glorious early opportunity to rip into the tail, but Azam and Shafiq were up to the task, comfortably taking Pakistan past the Black Caps' first innings total.

However, just as it looked like the pair had guided Pakistan to a safe position, Boult struck. A superb line and some seam movement saw Shafiq caught in two minds, and he inside edged the ball on to his stumps, departing for 43.

Still, the hosts were in a strong position, but debutant spinner Ajaz Patel then came to the party. After a relatively unthreatening opening spell, the 30-year-old came to life in the second session, having Sarfraz Ahmed caught sweeping at square leg for his first test wicket, and then Bilal Asif stumped by the impressive Watling to expose the Pakistani tail.

That tail offered little, with Neil Wagner claiming his 150th test wicket by dismissing Yasir Shah. Then, Boult returned to dismiss the last hindrance, Azam, for 62, and provide the Black Caps with an opportunity for a rare test victory away from home – a position few would have expected them to be in just 24 hours earlier.