NZ spinners strike early against Pakistan


Pakistan’s top order has stumbled early against New Zealand’s spinners on a dry and tacky wicket to reach 4-115 on the opening day of the two-Test series in Karachi.

Captain Babar Azam got a reprieve on 12 and also survived a TMO referral for lbw in Ish Sodhi’s first over to be unbeaten on 54 at the break.

Recalled former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, playing his first Test since 2019, was not out on four as New Zealand took the early advantage in their first Test in Pakistan in 20 years.

Babar raised his fifty off 76 balls when he drove Sodhi through mid-on off the backfoot for his seventh boundary before Tim Southee made further inroads in his return spell by dismissing Saud Shakeel (22) in the penultimate over before lunch.

Shakeel, who scored four half-centuries in England’s 3-0 clean sweep against Pakistan last week, played a loose drive against Southee and offered a regulation catch in the gully just when it looked the pair had started to rebuild the innings.

Spinners Ajaz Patel and Michael Bracewell found plenty of turn in the first hour after Southee lost the toss in his debut as New Zealand skipper and Babar elected to bat.

Southee read the slow and dry wicket quickly and brought on his spinners with the new ball just three overs old.

Patel got the breakthrough off his third ball as Abdullah Shafique (7) was stumped after getting beaten on two successive deliveries from the leftarm spinner.

Shan Masood (3) tried an over ambitious shot against Bracewell’s offspin and Tom Blundell got his second stumping before Imam-ul-Haq (24) played a reckless shot and holed out to Southee at mid-off to leave Pakistan struggling at 3-48.

Pakistan made three changes from the team which lost to England by eight wickets at the same venue last week. Sarfaraz got his first Test in three years after all-format wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan was rested.

Mir Hamza was also drafted into the playing XI after the leftarm fast bowler played his only Test against Australia in 2018 in Abu Dhabi. Hamza replaced allrounder Faheem Ashraf.

Opening batter Imam returned to the side after missing out Pakistan’s last Test due to a hamstring injury. Masood moved down the order at No 3 as Azhar Ali retired from Test cricket after playing his last Test against England.

Southee was appointed captain for the two-Test series after Kane Williamson stepped down from the captaincy before the Black Caps’ first Test tour to Pakistan since 2002.

New Zealand did play an ODI series in Pakistan in 2003 and were due to play a limited-overs series in Pakistan last year, but abandoned its tour just hours before the toss in the first ODI due to security concerns.

Weather concerns in Multan has forced the Pakistan Cricket Board to organise the entire tour of the Black Caps in Karachi which include two Test matches and three ODIs.



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