Abu Dhabi: New Zealand spectacularly snatched the decider of the three-match Test series against hosts Pakistan from the jaws of defeat to register a first away victory in the longest format of the game in 49 years.
In a series that disapproves the alleged slowly eroding charm of Test cricket, familiar fragilities of the Pakistan batting line-up were exposed by the ‘Black Caps’ on two decisive occasions as they bounced back from desperate positions to pull off stunning victories.
In the first innings of the series, the visitors were sent packing for a total of 153 runs, with star pacer Hasan Ali and spinner Yasir Shah, who finished the series as the top wicket-taker with 29 scalps, picking up fivers each. The hosts scored 227 to establish a 74-run lead, with New Zealand amassing 249 runs in reply to set a target of 176 for Pakistan.
Needing 46 runs for victory with six wickets in hand, the Pakistan middle order tumbled like a pack of cards, as the Kiwis registered an improbable victory after Azhar Ali, who anchored the Pakistan innings and scored 65 runs from 136 balls, was caught leg before wicket by 21-year old Mumbai-born Ajaz Patel.
Pakistan emphatically bounced back in the second match, as they declared at 418 for the loss of five wickets in the first innings. Yasir Shah single-handedly dismantled the visitors batting line-up twice as New Zealand were wrapped up for 90 runs, with the 32-year-old spinner, who also became the fastest to 200 Test wickets in the series, picked up eight wickets in the visitors’ first innings.
Shah then scalped six wickets in the second innings to help Pakistan wrap up a dominating display as the Kiwis were bundled up for 312, handing the hosts a victory by an innings and 16 runs.
Both teams came into the third and final match with their own issues to address, and for the most in the deciding match, it seemed Pakistan were the team to have banished their ghosts from the past, as they scored 348 runs in reply to the visitor’s 274 total.
The situation further worsened for the Black Caps as they were reduced to 60 for the loss of four wickets as they struggled to cope with brilliant spells from Shah, who was declared man of the series for his 19 wickets in the three matches, and 18-year-old Shaheen Afridi, both taking two wickets.
However, rising to the occasion was skipper Kane Williamson (139), who was declared the man-of-the-match, put up 212 runs along with Henry Nicholls (126 not out) to change the tide of the match before Pakistan dismissed the former with the scoreboard reading 272 for five.
There was still some batting left in the Kiwis after the fall of their captain, who declared their innings at 353 for the loss of seven wickets before the end of the first session on day five, leaving the hosts with 280 runs to chase in little over two full sessions.
In their final innings, Pakistan’s batting imploded in spectacular fashion as they kept losing wickets in regular intervals, owing much to the brilliance of debutant William Somerville, who ended the match with seven wickets, to be wrapped up for 156 runs.