New Zealand bounced back in the series after losing the first Test © Getty Images
New Zealand bounced back in the series after losing the first Test © Getty Images

New Zealand completed a memorable innings and 80-run win over Pakistan in the third and final Test at Sharjah on Sunday. On Day One, Pakistan were in command but slipped once play resumed after a day’s break. New Zealand were then led by Brendon McCullum’s heroics as they took complete control of the game. Amit Banerjee analyses the result, and what it means to both sides.

After Pakistan’s crushing victory over New Zealand in the opening Test at Abu Dhabi, few would have expected things to shape out the way they have in the second and third Tests, with New Zealand managing to secure a hard-fought draw in Dubai and following it up with a victory in Sharjah. The Kiwis managed to outperform the hosts in every department, and their series levelling effort, should serve as a major morale-booster for them in the near future.

One of the biggest positives for the Kiwis from the second and third Tests has been Brendon McCullum‘s fearless leadership, as well as his aggressive batting, that should be of great use in the shorter formats. His knock of 202 from 188 balls set the foundation for the Kiwis that eventually led them towards posting their highest ever total in Test cricket (690 in 143.1 overs). Apart from Kane Williamson‘s equally valuable innings of 192 from 244 balls, it was great to see nearly every member of the New Zealand side contribute with the bat. There were two centuries and four half-centuries scored in that innings, with tail-enders such as Mark Craig (65) and Tim Southee (50) ensuring that their side amassed a major lead before perishing.

From the bowling perspective, Mark Craig has been the biggest revelation in the third Test. His ten-wicket haul will help establish him as one of the main spinners in the side and his fighting half-century adds to his repertoire. Trent Boult’s amazing utilisation of the new ball to wreak havoc during the early stages of the Pakistan innings helped set the tone for the rest of the match. The deliveries during the dismissals of Azhar Ali and Younis Khan were beautiful inswingers, and showed his prowess as a seamer.

For Pakistan, it was mostly a disappointing journey in the third Test. Batsmen such as Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, who had enjoyed a glittering run with the bat recently, could not contribute to save their side. That, coupled with the batting forms of Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfraz Nawaz helped form expectations of the hosts feasting on a New Zealand attack that did not appear strong on paper for the given conditions.

The batting department however, was the biggest disappointment for Pakistan, barring the memorable knocks by Mohammad Hafeez (197) and Asad Shafiq (137) in the first and second innings respectively. Younis Khan departed on a score of five in the first innings, followed by a golden duck in the second. Skipper Misbah failed to play a captain’s knock when his side needed him the most. Shan Masood failed on getting another opportunity. Sarfraz Ahmed could not repeat his batting exploits from the first Test. It is all the more disappointing given the batsmen failed to score runs on the Sharjah track, that is considered a batting paradise, and is an old bastion for Pakistan.

While Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah managed to record good performances during the first two Tests, Babar went wicketless in the third Test. Yasir managed to take four wickets, while conceding 193 runs. Rahat Ali was a bright spot, taking four wickets for 99 runs.

The win will give New Zealand a whole new sense of self-belief, that can carry over to the upcoming One-Day International (ODI) and T20 International series. Formats may change, but New Zealand take the psychological momentum into that series.

(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, travelling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)