DUBAI: A career-best hundred from Haris Sohail and a maiden century from Babar Azam helped Pakistan post a big total to boost their chances of a series-levelling win against New Zealand in the second Test in Dubai on Sunday.
Haris contributed a snail-paced 147 in a marathon stay of nine hours and 34 minutes while Babar made an unbeaten 127 to steer Pakistan to an imposing 418-5 declared on day two at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
New Zealand negotiated nine overs without losing a wicket for 24 under lights in overcast conditions before umpires called off the day with two overs remaining.
Opener Jeet Raval was unbeaten on 17 with three boundaries while his partner Tom Latham was five not out.
With the Dubai stadium pitch starting to turn ace leg-spinner Yasir Shah could be the key to Pakistan gaining a big first innings lead on Monday.
New Zealand, who lead the series 1-0 after a sensational four-run win in the first Test in Abu Dhabi last week, still trail by 394 runs with all 10 wickets intact.
Haris improved on his previous best of 110 scored against Australia at the same venue last month while Azam passed his previous best of 99, against Australia in Abu Dhabi last month.
The left-hander from Sialkot added an invaluable 186 runs for the fifth wicket with Babar as the two frustrated the New Zealand’s attack in the first two sessions.
The Pakistani batsmen added 82 between lunch and tea, scoring faster than in any of the previous sessions.
But Haris needed 309 deliveries to reach three figures and then waved his bat toward the dressing room, apparently pointing to his team-mate Azhar Ali, run out after a mix-up with Haris on Saturday’s first day for 81.
Haris was finally dismissed soon after tea, caught behind off paceman Trent Boult. In all he faced 421 balls and hit 13 boundaries.
Babar ably supported Haris and hit 12 boundaries and two sixes. He added 58 for the sixth wicket with skipper Sarfraz Ahmed who made a bright 30 not out.
Babar later told reporters it was a big relief getting to the elusive Test hundred after falling for nervous nineties.
“It’s a big relief to score first century,” a relieved Babar said. “Since my childhood I used to hear that scoring a Test hundred is above everything so it was a dream to score a hundred in a Test.
“We are in a good position and if we get early wickets tomorrow (Monday] in the first session then we would be able to get a good lead and then go on to win the Test.”
Pakistan, resuming at 207-4, needed a big partnership to put pressure on New Zealand and Haris and Babar responded well.
Medium-pacer Colin de Grandhomme was miserly in taking two wickets for 44 in 30 overs with 11 maidens while left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel, who took seven wickets in the first Test, only one wicket for 120 in 39 overs.
PAKISTAN (1st Innings, overnight 207-4):
Imam-ul-Haq c Latham b de G’homme 9
M. Hafeez c Latham b de G’homme 9
Azhar Ali run out 81
Haris Sohail c Watling b Boult 147
Asad Shafiq c Wagner b Patel 12
Babar Azam not out 127
Sarfraz Ahmed not out 30
EXTRAS (B-2, NB-1) 3
TOTAL (for five wkts decl, 167 overs) 418
FALL OF WKTS: 1-18, 2-25, 3-151, 4-174, 5-360.
DID NOT BAT: Bilal Asif, Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas.
BOWLING: Boult 34-7-106-1; de Grandhomme 30-11-44-2; Wagner 37-12-63-0 (1nb); Patel 39-5-120-1; Sodhi 22-1-63-0; Williamson 5-0-20-0.
NEW ZEALAND (1st Innings):
J.A. Raval not out 17
T.W.M. Latham not out 5
EXTRAS (LB-2) 2
TOTAL (for no wkt, 9 overs) 24
TO BAT: K.S. Williamson, L.R.P.L. Taylor, H.M. Nicholls, B.J. Watling, C. de Grandhomme, I.S. Sodhi, N. Wagner, A.Y. Patel, T.A. Boult.
BOWLING (to-date): Mohammad Abbas 2--0-8-0; Hasan Ali 2-1-4-0; Mohammad Hafeez 2-1-1-0; Yasir Shah 2-0-9-0; Bilal Asif 1-1-0-0.
Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2018