Mon, 17 Dec 2018
21
Auckland

Debutant Somerville triggers Pakistan collapse

ESPNCricInfo
07 Dec 2018, 19:42 GMT+10

3:00 AM ET

Lunch Pakistan 348 (Azhar 134, Shafiq 104, Somerville 4-75) and 55 for 5 (Babar 4*, Somerville 2-4) need another 225 runs to beat New Zealand 353 for 7 dec (Williamson 139, Nicholls 126*, Yasir 4-129) and 274 (Williamson 89, Watling 77*, Bilal 5-65)

New Zealand are five wickets away from a remarkable turnaround and a result that is more a heist than a series win. After the smash-and-grab in Abu Dhabi in the first Test, New Zealand look set to have repeated the formula in the decider, reducing Pakistan to 55 for 5 in an extended opening session. For several teams, it would be a match that stood out for years, the poster child for the need to learn lessons. For Pakistan, it won't even be the most dramatic implosion of this three-Test series.

In a chase of 280, Mohammad Hafeez was dropped off the first ball he faced, allowing him to escape a pair in his final Test. He was castled soon after by a dream of a ball from Tim Southee, pitching on middle and off and shaping away to clip the top of the off stump. Hafeez's batting career had ended with a moment of cricketing brilliance. Just a shame it didn't come from him.

Any thoughts Pakistan might have had of chasing down New Zealand's total - and they do seem laughably nave now - were extinguished soon after, when Azhar Ali edged behind off Colin de Grandhomme. That slowed them down, but the worst was yet to come.

William Somerville, who has made an impressive debut, got rid of Haris Sohail and Asad Shafiq off consecutive balls, beautifully controlling the flight to extract edges from both batsmen. It seemed to blow away realistic hopes of Pakistan salvaging a draw. It looked worse when Babar was given out lbw, but a review saved his skin. It did become worse in the last over before lunch, though, when Ajaz Patel drew a bat-pad nick from Imam to short leg to cap a session that could scarcely have gone better for them if Williamson had demanded it off a bottle genie.

The day had started with New Zealand letting their hair down. In a wildly entertaining mini-session, Henry Nicholls took charge with his unbeaten 126, and with assistance from Colin de Grandhomme and Tim Southee, New Zealand walloped 81 runs in nine overs. It was a final show of dominance from the visitors before they put Pakistan in to bat, a swift lashing to add to the bruises they had inflicted yesterday. Within a day, the situation was flipped completely, and with Pakistan now set 280 in 79 overs, a win for the hosts looks like the least probable outcome.

Pakistan had begun as well as they could have, when Hasan Ali trapped Kane Williamson in front on the first ball of the day, ending a stand that had stalled Pakistan for over 80 overs. It was the first time the New Zealand skipper had been dismissed after scoring a second-innings ton, giving him a ludicrous average of 856 in those six digs. With New Zealand having won four and drawn one of the previous five, his side will fancy their chances for the rest of the day.

Williamson's dismissal failed to scare the visitors into conservatism, and two fours in the same over sent across that message. Another ten runs off the next, in which Nicholls moved to 99, made it clear that a quick declaration was on the cards. Nicholls' third Test hundred - his first outside New Zealand - came in the next over, and after that, he too cut loose. The short balls from the fast bowlers were most mercilessly put away, while at the other end de Grandhomme, looking a much freer player, smashed Shaheen Afridi and Yasir Shah for sixes. Yasir removed de Grandhomme and BJ Watling off successive deliveries in response, but even Southee couldn't be contained here.

A six off Yasir from the fast bowler was enough to convince the captain that they had accumulated the requisite runs, and he called his side in. Having gone unbeaten in UAE Test series in nearly a decade, Pakistan looked like they would be left clinging on to avoid losing two in the last three. It is just a shame for their long-suffering supporters that they don't even seem to be clinging that hard.

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