Cautious Pakistan nibble away at deficit
CHRISTCHURCH: Pakistan painstakingly chipped away at their 67-run deficit against New Zealand to have the first Test evenly poised at tea on the third day at Hagley Oval on Saturday.
After New Zealand resumed the day in a commanding position at 104-3, their advantage rapidly eroded as Pakistan took the final seven wickets for 96 and then cautiously progressed to 50-1 at tea to trail by 17 runs.
Colin de Grandhomme, New Zealand´s first innings hero with 6-41, snapped Pakistan´s second innings opening partnership when he had Sami Aslam caught behind for seven.
But from 21 for one, Pakistan advanced at a pedestrian pace with only 44 runs in the middle sessions to reach the tea break with Azhar Ali on 19 from 104 deliveries and Babar Azam on 23 from 49.
Azhar, on six, survived a confident lbw shout from Trent Boult when he offered no shot to a ball that nipped back sharply.
Umpire Ian Gould ruled not out and New Zealand´s review was lost when the ball-tracker showed the delivery would have missed the off stump by a hair´s breadth.
With fast bowlers Boult and Tim Southee unable to procure a wicket, New Zealand turned to Todd Astle, back in the side for the first time in four years, but there was little assistance in the pitch for the leg spinner.
The patience and focus of the Pakistan batsmen was in contrast to some impetuous shot-making by New Zealand as they tried to hurry the score along early in the day under cloudy skies and a pitch that suited seam bowlers.
Overnight batsmen, Jeet Raval and Henry Nicholls, were gone in the first four overs with Raval unable to add to his overnight 55 and Nicholls adding only one run to be gone for 30.
De Grandhomme, who has rarely been out of the spotlight in his maiden Test, followed his impressive first innings bowling figures with a quickfire 29 that included six boundaries.
He put on 37 with BJ Watling for the sixth wicket and sealed New Zealand´s first innings lead when he clipped a short Rahat delivery over the slip cordon to the boundary.
Southee (22) and Neil Wagner (21) also plundered quick runs in their brief cameos to get New Zealand up to 200 but there was otherwise little steel in the tail.
The New Zealand innings folded in 55.5 overs, just four more than Pakistan´s first innings of 133.
Rahat was the chief destroyer for Pakistan with four for 62 while Sohail Khan and Mohammad Amir took three wickets each.