Babar Azam and Sarfaraz Ahmed punish sloppy New Zealand in first Test

Published December 26, 2022
Skipper Babar Azam in action during the first day of the first Test match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the National Stadium in Karachi on Monday. — Pakistan Cricket Twitter
Skipper Babar Azam in action during the first day of the first Test match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the National Stadium in Karachi on Monday. — Pakistan Cricket Twitter
Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam (L) tosses the coin along with Kiwi counterpart Tim Southee at the beginning of the first day of the first Test match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the National Stadium in Karachi on Monday. — AFP
Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam (L) tosses the coin along with Kiwi counterpart Tim Southee at the beginning of the first day of the first Test match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the National Stadium in Karachi on Monday. — AFP

Babar Azam knocked a fighting hundred and the recalled Sarfaraz Ahmed hit a half-century to guide Pakistan to a healthy 317-5 on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Karachi on Monday.

The pair led Pakistan’s recovery from 110-4 during a 196-run fifth wicket stand, as the home team lost only Ahmed’s wicket in the last two sessions.

New Zealand spinners had taken three early wickets on a spin-assisting National Stadium pitch and one before lunch but had to wait until the closing moments when Ajaz Patel got Ahmed caught in the slip for 86.

At close, Azam was unbeaten on 161 and Agha Salman three as the home team looked to lift from last week’s 3-0 loss at the hands of England, their first-ever whitewash at home.

Azam now has 1,170 runs in nine Tests this year — the highest run scorer in Tests in 2022.

He also beat Mohammad Yousuf’s 2006 aggregate of 2,435 in all three formats, taking 2,584 runs across the board this year.

The Pakistan skipper swept spinner Michael Bracewell for a six towards mid-wicket to reach his ninth Test century. He has also hit 16 boundaries.

Ahmed, playing his first Test since January 2019, cracked nine boundaries in his 256-minute knock.

New Zealand will be ruing letting Azam off the hook when he was on just 12 after Daryl Mitchell spilt a regulation catch at slip off Bracewell.

The tourists also failed to run out Azam on 54 when Devon Conway missed the stumps with the Pakistan skipper well short of his crease.

New Zealand’s spinners dominated the first session, with Bracewell dismissing Shan Masood for three and Imamul Haq for 24, while Patel took the early wicket of Abdullah Shafique for seven.

Imamul Haq (2L) walks back to the pavilion after his dismissal during the first day of the first Test match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the National Stadium in Karachi on Monday. — AFP
Imamul Haq (2L) walks back to the pavilion after his dismissal during the first day of the first Test match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the National Stadium in Karachi on Monday. — AFP

In the penultimate over before lunch, fast bowler Tim Southee dismissed Saud Shakeel for 22 to complete a successful session for the tourists, playing their first Test series in Pakistan since 2002.

New Zealand’s decision to play with three spinners appeared justified, as the National Stadium pitch took a turn right from the start. Patel came on to bowl in just the fourth over of the innings.

He turned his third ball across a forward-playing Shafique and had him stumped by wicketkeeper Tom Blundell.

Bracewell then had Masood stumped in his second over before Haq miscued a drive off him and was caught at mid-off.

This is the first time in Test cricket history that the first two dismissals in an innings were both stumped.

Pakistan brought Ahmed, Mir Hamza and Haq to the side — with wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan dropped after playing 26 consecutive Tests.

Teams:

Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Saud Shakeel, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Agha Salman, Abrar Ahmed, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Wasim, Nauman Ali

New Zealand: Tim Southee (captain), Michael Bracewell, Tom Blundell, Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Ish Sodhi, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson

Umpires: Alex Wharf (ENG) and Aleem Dar (PAK)

Tv umpire: Ahsan Raza (PAK)

Match referee: Mohammad Javed Malik (PAK)

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