New Zealand yesterday were banking on a deteriorating pitch to defend their Kane Williamson-anchored 431 after reducing Pakistan to 30 for one on Day 2 of the first Test at Mount Maunganui.
Abid Ali was not out 19 with nightwatchman Mohammad Abbas yet to score after Kyle Jamieson removed opener Shan Masood for 10.
The Bay Oval pitch, Williamson’s home wicket, is renowned for supporting the bowlers on the first and last day.
Williamson said it was already showing signs it would favor spin through the middle stages, while New Zealand sweated on the availability of short-ball specialist Neil Wagner.
“Hopefully the cracks start to open and hopefully it starts to deteriorate,” Williamson said. “Spin will come more into play. There are bits of rough as well, so I’ve no doubt spin will definitely have a role.”
The immediate concern for New Zealand was the availability of Wagner, who was to have a scan at the end of the day after being hit on the foot by a Shaheen Afridi yorker when he batted.
Wagner managed three overs when Pakistan batted, but was clearly in pain.
New Zealand, having started the day at 222 for three, added a further 209 runs before Wagner was the last man out.
The innings were headlined by Williamson’s 129, his 23rd Test century, with sizeable contributions from BJ Watling (73) and Henry Nicholls (56) to go with Ross Taylor’s 70 on the first day.
Williamson described his knock as “really satisfying” after New Zealand were sent into bat on a green wicket and with Afridi and Mohammad Abbas making life difficult with swing and seam on the first day.
Although there was not the same movement on Day 2, the drying pitch started to show signs of turn which brought spin into play with Yasir Shah taking three wickets, including the prized scalp of Williamson. Nicholls, who had partnered Williamson in a 133-run stand for the fourth wicket, was the first to fall, bizarrely departing the field when he would have been allowed to stay had he argued his case.
Williamson, a model of patience and concentration, needed 261 balls to bring up his century, his slowest Test hundred, but once that milestone passed he picked up the pace and needed only 36 more deliveries to get to 129. The introduction of Yasir Shah brought the end of the New Zealand captain.
With his third ball, the leg-spinner found enough turn to catch the edge of the bat and Haris Sohail took a smart one-handed catch.
It was a productive day for Yasir Shah who also took the wickets of Southee and Wagner (19) to return figures of three for 113, while Afridi took four for 109.
INDIA BUILDS LEAD
Stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane yesterday rode his luck to hit a gritty unbeaten century as India built an ominous 82-run lead over Australia on Day 2 to take a stranglehold on the second Test in Melbourne.
It was a determined and crucial knock against a world-class attack by the mild-mannered 32-year-old, who assumed the captain’s role from Virat Kohli after he returned home for the birth of his first child.
Batting at four, he faced 200 balls for his 104 to steer India to 277 for five before rain ended play 15 minutes early. Ravindra Jadeja was not out 40.
The hosts took just four wickets during a frustrating day in the field as the match began to slip away with India zeroing in on leveling the series after losing the first Test by eight wickets in Adelaide.
Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins both took two wickets.
While Rahane was the hero, it was a gutsy team performance, with three 50-plus wicket partnerships to help silence their critics after India were skittled for their all-time low of 36 last week.
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