Pakistan vs New Zealand: Asad Shafiq-Azhar Ali alliance puts hosts on track for win
Asad Shafiq crossed 4,000 runs in Tests during his innings. @AFP

Three wickets in the span of eight balls briefly lifted hope for New Zealand on the fourth morning of the first Test in Abu Dhabi, but a solid half-century stand between Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali put Pakistan back on course for victory. They require 48 runs with five sessions left in the match.

A wicket to the debutant Ajaz Patel was followed by two in one over from Ish Sodhi as Pakistan s chase fell to 48/3 in a manic period, but an 82-run partnership between Asad (45) and Azhar (40*) saw them end the session on 130/4. Shafiq fell to Neil Wagner in the left-arm quick’s third over of the innings on the stroke of lunch.

Pakistan resumed on 37 without loss and lost Imam-ul-Haq for 27 in the fifth over on Monday, trapped lbw by left-arm spinner Patel when playing off the back foot to a sharply turning delivery. Three balls later, Mohammad Hafeez (10) followed his opening partner when he tamely chipped a flighted ball from Sodhi to short cover.

Haris Sohail advanced to his second ball and thumped Sodhi over mid-on for four, and off the next delivery stepped forward and bunted a low full toss back to the bowler who held a smart catch to his left. From 40 without loss, Pakistan had fallen to 48/3.

The new pair of Azhar and Shafiq smartly negotiated the turn and accuracy of Sodhi and Patel, watchfully playing out the former and then attacking the debutant. Shafiq started to use his feet to Patel, nicely timing a flick over midwicket and lofting easily over mid-on for fours.

Azhar brought out the reverse-sweep and the aerial sweep for fours in one Patel over, and when Wagner was introduced for the first time after 33 overs, the former Pakistan captain smacked a pull between two fielders. The bowler, however, roared his delight when Shafiq edged a drive to BJ Watling soon after.

Shafiq crossed 4,000 runs in Tests in the course of his 45.

Lunch: Pakistan 227 & 130/3 need 48 runs to beat New Zealand 153 & 249