Azhar Ali helped make sure Pakistan safely ended proceedings at 139/3 at the end of the first day’s play in the third and final Test match against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
The right-handed batsman struck a gutsy half-century after his team got off to a very poor start, losing both openers Mohammad Hafeez (0) and Imam-ul-Haq (9), leaving the team in a spot of bother at 17/2 at one stage. Ali then joined forces with Haris Sohail as the duo stitched a 68-run partnership that lifted the team out of trouble.
But just when things looked to head in a positive way for Pakistan with this partnership gaining ground, Sohail edged one back to the keeper from a delivery by Tim Southee.
The left-hander got too close to the ball and attempted a cut shot but couldn’t connect with it entirely and just found the outside edge, enough for Watling to complete the dismissal.
But Ali stayed rooted at the other end in the crease. He showed rock-solid determination with his knock that came off 169 balls where he hit just four boundaries and Pakistan would surely want to build on that going ahead into the decider.
His company at the other end was Asad Shafiq, who scored 26 runs off 85 balls and remained unbeaten at the end of the day’s play along with Ali.
Earlier, a twin strike by Trent Boult pushed Pakistan on the backfoot after New Zealand were bowled out for 274 in their first innings.
Brief scores: Stumps Pakistan 139 for 3 (Azhar 62*, Shafiq 26*, Boult 2-39) trail New Zealand 274 (Williamson 89, Watling 77*, Bilal 5-65, Yasir 3-75) by 135 runs.
(Image credit- NDTV Sports)