Raval, Williamson help NZ cruise home

New Zealand 200 (Raval 55, Rahat 4-62) and 108 for 2 (Williamson 61, Raval 36*) beat Pakistan 133 (Misbah 31, de Grandhomme 6-41) and 171 (Sohail 41, Wagner 3-34, Boult 3-37) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Jeet Raval hit the winning runs to cap off a memorable debut © Getty Images

Jeet Raval, gutsy and happy to dig in on the face of a challenge, came through a testing new-ball burst to help New Zealand chase down 105 by eight wickets shortly after lunch to give New Zealand a 1-0 lead in the two-Test series. He had Kane Williamson, the captain, for company till the doorstep of victory before finishingunbeaten on 36 to go with his first-innings 55 to cap off a fine debut along with Colin de Grandhomme, who took seven wickets, on a seamer-friendly Hagley Oval surface.

What could have been a tricky chase had they lost a couple of early wickets was converted into cruise by Raval and Williamson, who put together 85 for the second wicket. Once the initial burst was weathered, both batsmen were happy to play their shots on a surface that seemed to have eased out considerably. Runs that appeared to be at a premium for large parts of days two and three were had much more freely. Williamson, in particular, exhibited some fine cuts and delicate little dabs to make 61 before falling with New Zealand needing one. Raval, quite fittingly, hit the winning runs by pulling Yasir Shah for four over midwicket as New Zealand arrested a four-match losing streak.

Mohammad Amir, struggling with no-balls at times, wheeled away, relentlessly and was rewarded with the wicket of Tom Latham, caught fending to gully, but the batsmen didn’t have much trouble facing Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali, who picked up seven wickets between them in the first innings. Yasir, the legspinner, was largely restricted to a containing option on a surface that offered little purchase for spinners. That meant he was far from the threat he is in the subcontinent. This was the first time in his Test career that he went without a wicket.

That the match stretched a little past lunch was largely due to some adventurous lower-order batting from Pakistan. In 181 innings across recognised cricket, Sohail’s best effort with the bat fetched him 56. And so when New Zealand dismissed Sarfraz Ahmed late on day three to an inswinging yorker from Trent Boult, they may have entertained hopes of picking up the remaining three wickets early on Sunday and complete a modest chase. But Sohail wasn’t in the mood for a meek surrender.

Short balls were the flavor for the first few overs. He diligently ducked under deliveries that were over him, took on those that were anywhere near the body, and kept picking away runs at every available opportunity. If there was width, he slashed at them. If it was full and slanting away, he drove. So confident he was of the ploy to get as many runs as possible that Asad Shafiq, the more recognised batsman, didn’t hesitate to give him strike. His cameo 40 in a 53-run stand for the eight-wicket helped Pakistan, resuming on 129 for 7, finish their second innings on 171 thereby setting New Zealand a potentially tricky target.

In sticking to his ploy of going after anything short, Sohail perhaps played one shot too many and was caught by de Grandhomme at backward square leg in the seventh over after Pakistan had picked 29. The celebration when he fell was that of relief, for Kane Williamson, mindful of a tricky chase and willing to save every run – he employed deep square leg and deep point straightaway – ran to his bowler to give him a high five.

The session wasn’t without drama though. Shafiq survived a caught behind appeal on 8 while attempting an expansive drive off Wagner. While the appeal wasn’t spontaneous, there was a woody sound which New Zealand couldn’t refer as they had lost both their reviews on the third day. After Sohail’s dismissal, Shafiq chanced himself in search of some runs, but wasn’t entirely successful at connecting bat to ball. He was out courtesy some on-field brilliance when Jeet Raval, running in from deep square fived full-length forward to catch the ball in front of his face.

Rahat was the last man to be dismissed when he tamely lobbed a catch to short leg to complete the innings. Neil Wagner, who became the second-fastest New Zealander to 100 Test wickets on Saturday, finished with 3 for 34, two of which broke Pakistan’s spine on Saturday to effectively end any hopes of a Lord’s or Oval-like repeat.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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