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THE twists and turns in this Test of fluctuating fortunes have taken the proceedings into the final day for the first time in this three-match series after the opening two games were over inside four days.

This in fact had been made possible through a dogged fifth-wicket stand of 212 between New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls who have placed their side into a situation from where they could strike a final blow to clinch the series.

At 60-4 before lunch yesterday no one would have dared to have given even an outside chance to the visitors to survive the day against Yasir Shah after the spinner smashed the 82-year-old record of the fastest to the 200-wicket landmark, previously held by Australian leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett who did it in 36 Tests compared to the Pakistani’s 33rd match.

But such was the game’s nature that remained the only success of the day for Pakistan bowlers as Williamson and Nicholls cashed in gleefully on a couple of spilled catches to hang in until the stumps.

Williamson’s century, which was long overdue, and Nicholls’ plucky effort no doubt have now provided New Zealand with the opportunity of finishing their tour on an exciting note.

The visitors’ lead has been mounting all day, thus threatening Pakistan’s chances of finishing the series on a winning note.

The placid pitch also played a huge part as New Zealand pair offered a straight bat and leaving deliveries away from their range.

The day I would say not only belonged to the record-breaking Yasir but also to the two New Zealand batsmen who impeccably handled the pace and spin bowling without much fuss to extend the Test to the final day.

Yasir, who made his Test debut in 2014 against Australia, is now the quickest man to the 200-wicket mark than any other bowler in the world. His 27 wickets in this series have kept Pakistan’s hopes alive. Win or lose, what really matters in the end is the way the game is played and Yasir has done enough to impress us all with his kind of approach as a wily spinner.

I did not watch the New Zealand-born Grimmett who played for Australia but did had the opportunity of covering the Test debuts of wrist spinners like Abdul Qadir, Shane Warne and Danish Kaneria and Yasir is no less a champion than those before him. Admirable for the fact that all his wickets are taken on foreign land and that is where he is a lot more different from the men mentioned above.

If Pakistan are unable to an early breakthrough today, then the visitors will obviously bat at least until lunch to build a lead of 250-plus and then take chance in the two remaining sessions to surprise the Pakistan batsmen.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018

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