Kiwis snatch electric Test series win from Pakistan

By Rajive Singh

ABU DHABI 8 December 2018: History has been made at Zayed Cricket Stadium with New Zealand winning their first Test series away from home since 1969, having beaten Pakistan by 123 runs to conclude their tour of the UAE.

The Black Cap’s bowling line up magnificently ploughed through Pakistan’s batsmen in 56.1overs to avoid a match and series draw in the Oye Hoye 2018 Pakistan vs New Zealand Test Series, presented by Brighto Paints. Pakistan, who scored 156 all out in their final innings, have lost the series 2 – 1.

The match represented a number of milestones – perhaps most significantly the conclusion of the Test career of Mohammed Hafeez, which was announced on Wednesday evening by the batsman. The 38-year-old’s Test career began in Karachi in 2003 and concluded as the shadows lengthened on the pitch of Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The opener, who has been an integral part of the Pakistan team since 2003, will still feature in ODIs and T20Is.

The match also saw Yasir Shah achieve an impressive record – being the fastest bowler to reach 200 Test wickets, amassing such an impressive number in just 33 Tests. He broke the record which had been set by Australian leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett in 1936: a momentous occasion on the pitch of Zayed Cricket Stadium. Congratulated by former cricketing legend and Pakistan prime minister, Imran Khan, Shah’s record will certainly live on in the annals of sporting history.

Alongside Hafeez’s retirement and Shah’s success, the match concluded both the Pakistan – New Zealand Test Series in the UAE, as well as New Zealand’s tour of the UAE. After a Test match with some impressive personal moments for players from both sides, it was New Zealand who clinched the Oye Hoye trophy, with brilliant bowling in Pakistan’s second innings to seal their victory.

New Zealand, having won the toss on Monday morning, proceeded to evoke a fine demonstration of classic Test cricket in their first innings. Over the course of 116 overs, the Kiwi batsmen played with a maturity that led to a respectable first innings total of 274, placing Pakistan under pressure for the remainder of the match. Captain Kane Williamson was particularly impressive with a knock of 89 and was evidently disappointed to be denied a century having come so close. BJ Watling was equally excellent in his facing of 250 balls and stayed out in the middle to play some excellent, defensive shots, finishing on 77 not-out.

Pakistan’s bowling line up during the first innings, however, was particularly fierce and the bowlers did well through a mixture of fast-pace and sweeping spin to restrict New Zealand’s innings total. Test debutant Shaheen Shah Afridi obtained the first wicket of the Test match, demonstrating the young pace bowler’s talent with the red ball.

Off-break spinner, Bilal Asif, did particularly well in his acquisition of five Kiwi wickets and Yasir Shah likewise, brought his spinning skills to bear as he took three wickets. New Zealand closed their innings just before lunch on Day Two on 274.

Pakistan’s first innings didn’t have the smoothest of starts, as Imam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Hafeez were bowled by Trent Boult for 9 and 0 respectively. However, Azhar Ali came to the crease and magnificently worked to pull together a score of 134 across 297 balls. He was not the only centurion of the innings, with Asad Shafiq amassing a score of 104.

Yet despite the two batsmen’s impressive work, other key aspects of the Pakistan batting line-up fell through, with Babar Azam claimed for 14 and Captain Sarfraz Ahmed pulling together 25.

New Zealand’s bowling attack had the welcomed addition of debutant Will Somerville, who worked hard to claim four wickets across the innings, including those of Babar Azam and Sarfraz Ahmed.

Working alongside the mature pace of Trent Boult and Tim Southee, with the supportive spin of Ajaz Patel at the other end, Somerville was able to ensure that Pakistan’s lead at the end of the first innings was restricted to 74, leaving the match open for both sides to be able to claim victory.

The Black Caps had significant work to do in their second innings to ensure they set a target high enough to win and the batsmen proved up to the challenge.

Although losing Jeet Raval and Tom Latham early on as their second innings started on Wednesday evening, Kane Williamson provided a captain’s score of 139, batting throughout the fourth day. It came to a surprising end early on Day Five – dismissed off the very first ball.

Henry Nicholls joined his captain in managing to amass a score of 126, powering through the remainder of the innings prior to their declaration.

The New Zealanders faced an issue when they came to complete their innings on Friday morning, which was one of time. Williamson had to make a difficult calculation as to whether the Kiwi lead was high enough to declare whilst leaving enough time to avoid a draw by the conclusion of the day. New Zealand declared on 353 for seven just before 11am on Friday morning, leaving them until the close of play to obtain 10 wickets and giving Pakistan until 5pm to close the lead of 280 runs.

Pakistan’s second innings began with New Zealand ripping through their top batting line up, as Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq and Imam-ul-Haq all fell before lunch. Babar Azam and Sarfraz Ahmed attempted to steady the ship and pull Pakistan toward a draw, but Somerville picked up his seventh wicket of the match when he flattened the Captain’s wicket for 28, leaving Pakistan on a perilous 109 for six.

Babar Azam and Bilal Asif tried to allay the furious New Zealand bowling attack over the next 80 balls, but Asif was then dismissed by Southee for 12, soon to be followed by Yasir Shah for four.

Babar Azam, who had reached his 1000th Test run during the innings, lost his wicket on 51, as the ball was caught by Ajaz Patel off Southee’s bowling. With the two tail-enders of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali at the crease requiring 130 more runs to win, New Zealand were just waiting for the final wicket. It came only two overs later, as Hasan Ali was caught by Captain Kane, (who was also deservedly awarded Player of the Match), which confirmed Patel’s fifth wicket of the Test and New Zealand’s victory of 123 runs was cemented.

Speaking after the conclusion of the match, New Zealand Captain Kane Williamson said: “It’s been a fantastic series to be a part of, and honestly, to go one all, and then have a deciding match that goes five days, and both teams have a chance of a result on the last day is a pretty special series. Certainly from our perspective, to have won a series over here against a side like Pakistan, who are formidable in these conditions, is very special.

“It was a really close game – here, obviously, for the first match, and then Pakistan won convincingly in Dubai. To bounce back, and put out a performance that we’re very much proud of, and we knew would be competitive, and to go five days and then to come away with a win against, as I say, a very strong side, like Pakistan, is a great game that the guys will remember.”

New Zealand return home to face Sri Lanka in their next tour over the festive season. Meanwhile, Pakistan will travel to take on South Africa.

This match concludes what’s been a massive season of international cricket in Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

But with Pakistan returning in March 2019 to take on Australia in one day internationals, and in October 2019 to face a tour from the Sri Lankans, Abu Dhabi Cricket is looking forward to welcoming the team back to the stadium in the capital of the UAE.

Dubai Gazette