Pacers restrict New Zealand's lead to 67

Pakistan 133 and 6 for 0 trail New Zealand 200 (Raval 55, Nicholls 30, Rahat 3-62, Amir 3-43, Sohail 3-78) by 61 runs
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Sohail Khan troubled New Zealand’s batsmen with late away movement © AFP

On a Hagley Oval surface which experts felt had quickened, Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali gave Pakistan a lifeline by restricting New Zealand’s lead to just 67. The hosts were bowled out for 200, with seven wickets falling for 96 runs in a frenetic session where none of the batsmen except debutant Colin de Grandhomme looked anywhere near comfortable. Sami Aslam and Azhar Ali then saw off an uncomfortable six-over burst to take Pakistan into lunch on 6 without loss.

Walking in after the overnight pair of Henry Nicholls and Jeet Raval were dismissed inside four overs, de Grandhomme brought out his firebrand approach to batting, a method that’s worked wonders for him in the shorter format, to make a cameo 29 and drive New Zealand into the lead. Then, he fell attempting a hook off a quick Sohail bouncer to trigger a collapse. Sohail, who bowled nine overs on the trot in an intense first spell, and Rahat picking seven wickets between them on an overcast day where swing and seam movement cast apprehensions for the batsmen.

Nicholls, who traded flair for grit late on the second day, played down the wrong line to a Sohail delivery that nipped back in to beat his inside edge and trap him lbw. Height may have been in question but he decided against a review after a word with his partner. One wicket became two when Raval, the overnight half-centurion on debut, poked at an away-swinger from Mohammad Amir to be caught by Aslam at second slip.

De Grandhomme, who on Friday took the best figures by a New Zealander on debut, decided to attack. In hindsight, it wasn’t a bad approach; the swagger and nonchalance in his strokes, briefly threw Pakistan off guard. He flicked his first ball in Tests, a juicy half-volley on the pads, into the midwicket boundary. Then there was a pull shot that he fetched from outside off, a drive with an opened bat face that split cover and point and a sashay down the pitch to flay a length ball past mid-off.

He had raced away to 29 and looked good for more, before falling to a bouncer that got big on him as the top edge was taken by Rahat at fine leg. In the next over, Todd Astle, returning to the Test squad after four years on the back of a career-best 195 in the Plunkett Shield for Canterbury, did little to boost his batting credentials as he nicked to the cordon.

BJ Watling held fort briefly, but his tentative pokes against the moving delivery made him a candidate for the slip cordon; Rahat had him push away from the body to induce an edge that was superbly taken by a diving Younis Khan at third slip. Tim Southee and Neil Wagner then slashed and pulled their way to pocket some handy runs to swell New Zealand’s lead, before Amir, who picked up two wickets on Saturday, and Rahat ended their stay to cap off a fine comeback.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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