Imam-ul-Haq.

Stumps Pakistan 154 for 3 (Imam 74*, Babar 24, Ajaz 1-30, Henry 1-35) trail New Zealand 449 (Conway 122, Latham 71, Henry 68*, Blundell 51, Abrar 4-149) by 295 runs

A confident 74 from Imam-ul-Haq and a slow, yet solid 13 from Saud Shakeel ensured Pakistan made a steady resurgence in their innings after they briefly appeared to fall apart. The pair’s unbeaten fourth-wicket stand of 55 lifted Pakistan to 154 for 3, still 295 behind New Zealand’s first-innings total of 449.

Pakistan had made a steady start in their response to 449, but the dismissals of Abdullah Shafique and Shan Masood, and then the run-out of Babar Azam made it appear like day two would completely belong to New Zealand. But that wasn’t to be, with Imam and Shakeel ensuring Pakistan pulled things back, even though the visitors remained slightly ahead in the contest after two days of cricket.

All eyes in the final session were on Imam, who had turned down a third run to cause a mix-up with Babar and effect a third dismissal, but he continued his batting fluency from the first Test to hit nine fours and a six in his 125-ball innings. He struck four fours through the covers, using his feet to good effect against the ball turning away from Michael Bracewell, and also played in the region in front of square on the leg side, collecting 23 runs in that area.

Shakeel, at the other end, anchored himself for the most part, taking 42 balls to score his first run off the bat. Initially, he poked at the deliveries turning away from Bracewell in what appeared to be a tricky initiation into the innings, missing a few early on. His resistance came via his dead-batting ploy to see off the day, which he successfully did, playing 75 deliveries to make 13 in an innings that saw only one boundary in it.

Before that, Both Shafique and Masood were out trying to play aggressively. Shafique, the right-hand opener, had struck four early boundaries to move to 19, but then tried pulling a rising short ball from Matt Henry while taking his eyes off the delivery. He ended up hitting the shot high, and to the only outfielder in the deep on the leg side.

Masood then produced a fluent beginning, hitting four fours in his first ten deliveries to race to 20. In fact, he had crunched three boundaries in a single Ajaz Patel over before trying to search for a fourth when he sliced a half-tracker to the fielder at point.

That had left Imam and Babar looking to start a Pakistan recovery after tea, but that partnership could never blossom, with the captain run out, on 24, for the sixth time in his Test career.

Earlier in the day, both Henry (68) and Ajaz (35) put on their highest individual Test scores while also becoming only the fourth pair in Test history to post a 100-plus partnership between a No. 10 and a No. 11. That lifted New Zealand from potentially folding for under 350 to eventually finishing at a run less than 450.

The two came together when New Zealand lost their ninth wicket with the score reading 345. However, Henry took on Abrar early with a four through midwicket before hammering Hasan Ali for four, four and six in consecutive deliveries. The umpires called for an extra thirty minutes of play in the first session with New Zealand nine down, but Henry and Ajaz batted right through that. Ajaz was more circumspect, freeing his arms on rare occasions in his 78-ball stay. He hit three fours and looked quite comfortable on the whole, especially against the short-pitched bowling that Pakistan tested him – unsuccessfully – with.

Henry reached his fifty before lunch, and the duo added a further 16 in the second session before they eventually folded for 449. The innings ended when Ajaz attempted to sweep an Abrar googly, only to get a top-edge for slip to gobble up.

Before their entertaining final-wicket stand, it was Tom Blundell who started off strongly for New Zealand after they resumed day two on 309 for 6. After Ish Sodhi fell for 11 early, Blundell, in Tim Southee’s company, reached his ninth Test fifty. But Abrar dismissed Blundell for 51 and Southee for nine in quick succession before the Henry-Ajaz stand.

Naseem Shah was the most impressive of the bowlers from the first innings, finishing with 3 for 71 while having an economy of 2.95. While Abrar took a four-for, he conceded 149 and Salman, who barely bowled in the first Test, took 3 for 75.

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