New Zealand were banking on a deteriorating pitch to defend their Kane Williamson-anchored 431 after reducing Pakistan to 30/1 on day two of the first Test at Mount Maunganui on Sunday.
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. But Williamson said it was already showing signs it would favour 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 222/3, added a further 209 runs before Wagner was the last man out.
The innings was 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.
Patience and concentration
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 two, 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.
He was given out caught off the gloves, and after consulting with Williamson they felt the ball may have also touched the bat so they decided not to seek a review when replays later showed the ball hit his forearm and did not brush either glove or bat.
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.
Watling, who scored a double century against England on the same Bay Oval wicket a year ago, took over as the batting mainstay. He featured in a 36-run stand with Mitchell Santner (19) and 66 with Jamieson (32).
After Tim Southee’s nine-ball duck, Watling and Wagner put on 33 before Watling nicked a wide Afridi delivery to Yasir Shah at gully.
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.
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