Trent Boult ran through the Pakistan top order in a menacing new-ball spell that extinguished early any chance the home side had of batting five-and-a-half sessions to save the Test. The spinners then chipped away at the rest – Mark Craig becoming only the third New Zealand spinner to register a ten-wicket haul – to help New Zealand level the series with their third-biggest win against Pakistan. It was the first time since 1969-70 that Pakistan failed to beat New Zealand in a home series of at least three Tests. It was also, possibly, Daniel Vettori’s farewell present.
A few days ago, there was no such thing as a Pakistan batting collapse. In Sharjah, it happened twice: in the first innings, they lost the bottom half after Mohammad Hafeez’s big century to be restricted to 351, and in the second, under the weight of a 339-run deficit, they lost the top in no time. Asad Shafiq smashed his way to a fifth Test century in the company of the lower order, but the innings just delayed the inevitable.
Surviving the last two days would have been difficult for Pakistan but they would have deemed it possible after seeing the New Zealand lower order tackle pace and spin comfortably. They were in for a rude shock against the moving ball, though. Boult was twice clipped for boundaries in his first over but it was matter of time before he got his lines right. He pinged Shan Masood’s pads with an inswinger on the last ball of the first over only for the umpire to deem it not out. The review showed how close it was, the ball hitting the leg stump almost flush. It took him only two more balls to get a wicket though. This time, it was an outswinger taking the outside edge of Masood’s bat and flying to third slip.
Boult then changed the line of attack to round the stumps to make two telling blows: Azhar Ali left one only to see it swing back sharply and take his off stump, and Younis Khan was similarly surprised by the big swing to be dismissed lbw first ball. With just five runs in the Test, it was a rare failure for Younis in a season when he hasn’t done much wrong.
With the top order blown away in quick time, a lot depended on Hafeez, the first-innings centurion but he was out to a soft dismissal, driving a flighted delivery back to Craig. Misbah-ul-Haq prodded around for 57 deliveries, survived a close lbw shout against Tim Southee’s reverse swing, but with pitch showing signs of uneven bounce, he perished after after gloving one to the keeper off Craig.
At 63 for 5, the match was unravelling fast. Sarfraz, though, broke the shackles with a series of powerful sweeps and lofted shots against the spinners. The aggression rubbed on to Shafiq as well, who too started using his feet against Craig and brought up his half-century. The two added 77 runs at run a ball but there were signs towards the latter half of the stand that a wicket was imminent. The ball was spitting off the pitch and Sarfraz was twice reprieved: at short fine leg after he got a top-edge against Sodhi and at slip soon after.
Ten minutes before tea, Sarfraz ran out of luck as one spun sharply to take an edge through to Ross Taylor at slip. Sodhi made it two in an over with the wicket of Yasir Shah. Shafiq was on 50 at that stage. With New Zealand closing in, he shed all restraint aside and went on a boundary-hitting spree. A six and a four off consecutive deliveries from Craig helped him to his century. It was almost as if he was auditioning for a place in the T20 side with a series of textbook strokes.
Shafiq was fortunate to survive a couple of chances: he was on 13 when the umpire didn’t spot a thin edge to the keeper and was once dropped by Taylor when on 106. But in between, he was unrelenting against spin, taking 114 runs off the three New Zealand spinners. As New Zealand’s frustration grew, the bouncer, that had been absent from their attack after the resumption of the Test on Friday, made an appearance. Shafiq, though, was quick to pounce on it and whacked it over square leg for the 35th six of the match – the most in any Test. He was dismissed off Boult in the bowler’s next over and the innings closed an over later.
It was almost a repeat of Pakistan’s first innings: one batsman hitting a big century but no one else even making it to fifty. New Zealand, on the other hand, had six batsmen hitting fifty or more. The last one to reach 50 was Craig , who crossed the landmark with a six – the 20th of the innings – off the 71st delivery he faced. The tally of sixes further inflated to 21, the most by any team in a Test innings, as Craig smashed Hafeez over long-off. By the time he was dismissed, Craig had added another 45 with Sodhi – who struck the 22nd six of the innings – in quick time and the total had crossed 680, New Zealand’s previous best Test score that came against India earlier this year.
New Zealand’s domination was even more remarkable given the emotional upheaval the teams had gone through at the news of Phillip Hughes’ death on the second morning of the Test. New Zealand had discussed forfeiting the match but then they decided to continue after a day’s break. While the moods remained somber throughout the Test, Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson’s innings flattened Pakistan completely. (ESPNcricinfo)