Tea: New Zealand 271 and 181 for 3 (Taylor 37*, Nicholls 9*) lead Pakistan 216 by 236 runs
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Tom Latham hit 12 fours in his 150-ball 80 © Getty Images
Tom Latham’s 80 led a strong top-order performance that stretched New Zealand’s lead to 235 by tea on day four of the Hamilton Test. Latham added 96 for the second wicket with Kane Williamson and 52 for the third with Ross Taylor before Wahab Riaz bounced him out during the course of a fiery second spell. With the ball rearing towards his head and cramping him for room, Latham flung his hands up and popped a catch to the wicketkeeper off his top glove.
Wahab should have had the wicket of Henry Nicholls as well. New to the crease, Nicholls’ footwork was severely tested by Wahab’s pace, and he edged him past second slip’s left hand before playing and missing with feet rooted to the spot. In his next over, he took on the short ball, and just about cleared the leaping long leg fielder with a hurried hook. For some reason, Sohail Khan was standing some ten yards inside the boundary rather than on the rope, where the chance would have been fairly straightforward.
With Imran Khan finding inward movement and bounce to rap Ross Taylor on the glove, New Zealand ended the second session in some discomfort though they were in an excellent position in terms of match situation, with four sessions remaining and seven wickets in hand. There was still a bit of seam movement and bounce available from the Seddon Park pitch, though nothing like the help it was offering the seamers on the first two days.
Given how much the conditions had eased out, Pakistan’s four seamers bowled as well as they could have. Imran Khan bowled the ball of the innings, straightening it from just short of a good length, his line forcing Williamson to play and nick to the keeper in the fifth over after lunch.
That could have been the second wicket in a short span of time, had Sami Aslam clung on to a chance offered by Latham with 2.3 overs left for lunch. Mohammad Amir, inevitably, was the unlucky bowler. Latham pulled him in the air, to the left of midwicket. Aslam dived and got his left hand to the ball, but couldn’t hold on. In Amir’s next over, Latham rubbed it in, straight-driving, flicking, and pulling him for three fours to reach his half-century.
That over apart, Amir bowled beautifully, swinging the new ball both ways, though not extravagantly, and getting Pakistan an early breakthrough. The dismissal was perfectly set up: first a wide-ish outswinger that the left-handed Jeet Raval ignored; then another outswinger, closer to off stump, forcing a play-and-miss; followed by an inswinger from a virtually identical line and length. Raval played down the wrong line, and the ball missed his inside edge and thudded into his front pad. Raval began walking almost before the umpire had given him out.
It was the culmination of the pressure Pakistan had built from both ends. It took New Zealand 28 balls to score their first run of the innings, and another ball before Latham got off the pair, off the 13th ball he faced.
Pakistan’s discipline wavered just a touch when Williamson walked in, but that was also down to the new batsman cutting down their margins for error. He hit three fours while moving to 16 off 19 balls: a late cut, a back-foot punch and a steer through point, none of which came off a genuinely bad ball.
Having recalibrated their length to Williamson, Pakistan conceded only six runs off the next 36 balls they bowled to him, building just enough pressure to cause him to attempt a risky single that endangered his partner’s stay at the crease. Yasir Shah, on the field as a substitute, swooped in from point and hit the stumps at the keeper’s end with an underarm flick, and it took multiple replays from multiple angles for the third umpire to give Latham the benefit of doubt. It was one of those calls where Latham’s bat was short of the crease when the ball struck the stumps, and past the crease with the bail off its groove in the next frame, with the cameras incapable of producing the decisive in-between frame.
As the session progressed, Pakistan may have wished Yasir’s legspin was available to them, as the batsmen began to assert themselves. Latham picked up a steady stream of leg-side singles, while Williamson strode forward to play the shot of the innings, an on-the-up drive through the covers off a blameless delivery from Wahab Riaz.
The wicket of Williamson after lunch brought Taylor to the crease, and he carried on batting in the free-flowing manner of his first-innings knock, and was particularly eye-catching with his cutting, needing the bare minimum of width to chop the ball away either side of point. By tea, he had moved to 37.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo