Babar Azam's century gives hosts upper hand after New Zealand strike early

Sports Tuesday 27/December/2022 10:34 AM
Babar Azam's century gives hosts upper hand after New Zealand strike early

Karachi : Day one of Pakistan's first Test against New Zealand was highlighted by Babar Azam's ninth Test century and Sarfaraz Ahmed's stunning comeback performance, with the hosts recording 317 for 5 thanks to their 196-run fifth-wicket stand.

Pakistan recovered from a precarious 110 for four to finish the opening day's play in the first Test against New Zealand at 317 for five on Monday. Elected to bat first, the duo joined forces when Pakistan was in a precarious position of 110 for 4 before lunch, but they batted nearly all the way through to stumps, playing out almost two entire sessions. While Babar's unbroken 161 was the day's high point and raised his Test average to beyond 50, Sarfaraz's 86 in his first Test appearance in nearly four years and his first ever on home soil was also noteworthy.

However, Pakistan's day had gotten off to a catastrophic start after they decided to bat. The early stumpings of Shan Masood and Abdullah Shafique by Ajaz Patel and Michael Bracewell marked the first time in Test cricket that the first two wickets were taken via stumpings.

At the end of the first hour, Imam-ul-Haq was out on 24 and the score read 48 for 3, giving Pakistan the appearance of having lost the toss advantage.

Nevertheless, Babar and Saud Shakeel managed a 62-run stand to push Pakistan over the century mark. However, just one over before lunch, the latter was defeated for 22. The visitors had no idea that they would have to wait nearly five hours for their next opportunity to celebrate after the fourth wicket made the opening session completely theirs.

Apart from the run-out opportunity in the first over after lunch and the early life to Babar by Daryl Mitchell at first slip, the Pakistani captain dominated the New Zealand bowlers throughout the course of his knock. He took full advantage of a pitch that got better to bat on as the day wore on, after a challenging first hour, to get to his century, hitting a six over deep midwicket to reach the three-figure mark.

Babar utilised the balls turning in from Bracewell, those tailing in from Tim Southee, and the unsuccessful leg-side line that Neil Wagner operated on to score 83 runs in front of square on the leg side. In an innings that has so far featured 15 fours and one six, his most successful shot, a flick, fetched him 56 runs.

The sweep was particularly effective early on for Sarfaraz, who was playing his first Test since January 2019 and his first ever at home. He used the technique against the spinners remarkably, even when someone like Patel managed to get the ball to turn away from him. Sarfaraz's innings, though, was a little erratic. He was either squared up by good-length deliveries that held their line or got edges down to deep third when chasing wide seamer deliveries.

After 80 overs, New Zealand took the new ball, and as the light was waning, it appeared that the partnership would continue uninterrupted till stumps. But in the 86th over, Sarfaraz edged Patel to first slip and was out for 86, ending their nearly 200-run partnership.

Babar was given out trying to bat the day's penultimate over, with Patel celebrating his third scalp. However, Babar referred the on-field decision to the third umpire via the DRS. Replays showed the ball was going over the stumps.

Agha Salman remained unbeaten on three as Babar left the field unbeaten on 161.