Rahat Ali was the pick among the Pakistan bowlers with figures of four for 89 © AFP
Rahat Ali was the pick among the Pakistan bowlers with figures of four for 89 © AFP

Nov 29, 2014

New Zealand finished on a score of 637 for the loss of eight wickets against Pakistan at stumps on Day Three of the third Test at Sharjah. Mark Craig was unbeaten on a score of 34 at the time of stoppage of play, with Tim Southee getting dismissed off the bowling of Yasir Shah off the last ball of the day. The visitors managed to gain a massive lead of 286 runs at the end of the day, emerging as the dominant side for the second consecutive day. Rahat Ali emerged the pick of the Pakistan bowlers, finishing with figures of four for 89.

New Zealand resumed from their overnight score of 249 for one, With Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson resuming from their overnight scores of 153 and 76 respectively. Williamson began the offensive against the Pakistanis in no time, reaching his eighth Test century within a few overs after the start of play on the third day. He reached the milestone in the 124th delivery that he faced.

McCullum began the day on a cautious approach, settling for the ones and twos until reaching the 180s, from where he decided to go back to his old ways. He brought up his double century in the 186th delivery that he faced, smashing Yasir Shah for a massive six over long-on. It was the McCullum’s fourth Test double-century. The knock was also the fourth fastest double-century of all time, the record of which is held by former New Zealand batsman Nathan Astle [222 balls].

The celebrations of the New Zealand skipper’s century had barely died when McCullum was shown the door by Yasir Shah. Attempting to sweep a delivery that was pitched on full-length outside the leg stump, the ball underwent a massive spin to crash into the stumps, with McCullum missing the line completely. The Pakistani players showed some sportsmanship by congratulating McCullum, who faced a standing ovation from his team-mates and the spectators alike on his way back to the pavilion. New Zealand were 388 for two at lunch. It was a successful session for the Kiwis, scoring 139 runs for the loss of one wicket.

Williamson reached the 150-run mark off 205 balls at the start of the second session, with Ross Taylor scoring steadily on the other end. The first few overs post-lunch were bowled by the duo of Zulfiqar Babar and  Yasir, conceding 23 runs off the next ten overs. It was after Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq brought in Mohammad Talha and Rahat Ali that the run-rate picked up. Williamson managed to eclipse his unbeaten knock of 161 against West Indies earlier this year to notch up his highest Test score.

Ross Taylor was on 49 when he nicked a short-pitched ball going down his leg-side to the wicket-keeper, but the replays showed that Talha had overstepped and resulted in a no-ball. The lucky breather allowed Taylor to complete his 23rd Test fifty. He was however, dismissed three balls after reaching his half-century, when he edged a tried to cut a Yasir delivery, but managed to edge it to the slips where Younis Khan took a catch, ending a 126 run stand between Williamson and Taylor. New Zealand were 488 for three at tea, scoring 100 runs for the loss of one wicket during the second session.

The first ball of the final session of the day had a major jolt in  store for the visitors, with Kane Williamson edging a short-pitched delivery outside off towards the slips, where Younis Khan  took a comfortable catch. Williamson fell eight runs short of a well-deserved maiden Test double-century. The burden of scoring a majority of the runs was then passed on to Corey Anderson, who shared a brief 24-run partnership with Williamson. Daniel Vettori was promoted to number six in an attempt to get some quick runs in New Zealand’s way.

Vettori was trapped leg-before off Rahat’s bowling, with the Kiwi leg-spinner deciding not to waste a review. Anderson decided to hasten his way to his second Test fifty, bringing up milestone with a flat-batted boundary over the umpires head. He was however, sent back to the pavilion off the next delivery when he was caught at deep midwicket by Yasir Shah while attempting a slog, giving Rahat his fourth wicket.

Pakistan seemed to have clawed themselves back into the game for a brief moment when they managed to remove BJ Watling on eight, with the scoreboard reading 546 for seven. Pakistan took four wickets while conceding 58 runs. There were expectations of New Zealand declaring after securing a 200-run lead, or get bowled out in the process.

Tim Southee and Mark Craig however, decided otherwise. Southee, known for his pinch-hitting abilities, made sure the run-fest  was not over in any way whatsoever. The pair added 91 runs for the eighth wicket, with Tim Southee to his second Test fifty in the process. New Zealand surpassed their previous best total against Pakistan, which was 563 at Hamilton in 2003, and  their score of 637 for eight is currently their third-highest Test innings total of all time. Southee was dismissed off the last ball of the innings when he was caught by Mohammad Talha near the long-on boundary while attempting to pull off another six, giving Yasir Shah his third wicket.

Rahat Ali was one of the bright spots of the Pakistani bowling on the third day, taking the crucial wickets of Williamson and Anderson. New Zealand will hope to stretch their lead to 300 on the fourth day, after which it will be an enormous task for the Pakistan batsmen to wrest the control of the game back in their favour.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 351 (Mohammad Hafeez 197, Azhar Ali 39, Misbah-ul-Haq 38; Mark Craig 7 for 94) trail New Zealand 637 for 8 (Brendon McCullum 202, Kane Williamson 192*, Ross Taylor 50; Corey Anderson 50, Tim Southee 50; Rahat Ali 4 for 89; Yasir Shah 3 for 169) by 286 runs.

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