Tim Southee fell agonisingly short of leading New Zealand to victory in his first series in charge and the 34-year-old put it down to Sarfaraz Ahmed’s dream comeback for Pakistan.
The two-Test series in Karachi ended in a 0-0 stalemate even though New Zealand were in a position to win both only to be thwarted by bad light and Sarfaraz’s red-hot form in the 35-year-old’s first series in nearly four years.
New Zealand sensed a series-clinching victory when they reduced Pakistan to 80-5 having set them a daunting victory target of 319.
Sarfaraz produced a career-best 118, his first Test hundred since 2014, to help Pakistan eke out a dramatic draw at Karachi’s National Stadium on Friday.
“Sarfaraz was outstanding… not only today, but throughout the whole series,” Southee told reporters after bad light stopped play with New Zealand one-wicket away from winning the series and Pakistan 15 runs short of victory.
“He came out, he played positive cricket, played busy cricket. For somebody who hasn’t played for four years, credit to him.”
“We knew from the nature of the surface that things could happen late in the Test but Sarfaraz was probably the difference. We could’ve won had we got him earlier.”
Sarfaraz’s glovework was rather sloppy but his scores of 86, 53, 78 and 118 made him the obvious choice for both the player-of-the-match and player-of-the-series honours.
His counter-attacking knock impacted New Zealand’s bowling tactics as well, forcing the tourists to defer taking the new ball.
“If he didn’t play as positive as he did throughout the day then we would have been able to take the new ball because we would have had a lot more runs to play with.” Southee said “a lot of good cricket” was played in the series but the disappointment of draw lingered.
“You play to win Test matches and we got ourselves in, probably, positions to win both of them,” Southee said.
“It was pretty tough going but the guys toiled away and we were one ball away from a series victory.
“So yeah, disappointing to walk away (0-0) and I’m sure Pakistan are the same.” The teams now square off in a three-match one-day international series beginning on Monday.
Pakistan’s last pair Naseem Shah and Abrar Ahmed survived 21 balls in fading light on Friday while Sarfaraz Ahmed hit a fighting century to deprive New Zealand of a victory, bringing the second Test to a sensational draw in Karachi.
New Zealand were in sight of a series-clinching victory after dismissing Sarfaraz for a career-best 118 with 39 balls remaining in the match.
But as dusk settled, Naseem scored 15 and Ahmed seven to guide Pakistan to 304-9 in pursuit of a 319-run target when umpires Alex Wharf and Aleem Dar declared the light unfeasible to continue with three overs remaining.
The two-match series ended 0-0 after the first Test — also in Karachi — ended in a draw, depriving New Zealand of their first series win in Pakistan for 53 years.
New Zealand took the second new ball and with the fourth delivery Tim Southee dismissed Agha Salman for 30 to break a 70-run stand for the seventh wicket before Bracewell dismissed Sarfaraz to raise hopes of a win.
But it was Sarfaraz whose fourth Test century — first in eight years — which set Pakistan on course for a fighting draw.
Pakistan were staring at defeat at lunch with the total on 125-5, but Sarfaraz led the fight back during a sixth-wicket stand of 123 in three hours with Saud Shakeel who made 32.
Pakistan reached 179-5 at tea, needing a further 140 runs in the 31 overs — a point from where Sarfaraz sped up the run rate by smashing three boundaries and a six off spinner Michael Bracewell before driving pacer Matt Henry for two to reach his hundred.
But once Pakistan lost Sarfaraz, Hasan Ali (five) and Salman in the space of 14 runs, the target went out of reach.
The previous best winning chase in a Test in Pakistan was 314 by the home team against Australia in Karachi in 1994.
Sacked as captain of all three formats in October 2019, Sarfaraz staged a comeback in the drawn first Test — also in his hometown of Karachi — and top scored the series with 335 runs with three fifties and a hundred.
In all, Sarfaraz batted for four hours and 48 minutes, hitting nine boundaries and a six — an improvement on his previous highest of 112 made against the same opponents in Dubai eight years ago.
Spinner Michael Bracewell (4-75) and Ish Sodhi (2-59) jolted Pakistan earlier with three wickets in the first session.
Resuming two down without any runs on the board, Pakistan lost Imam-ul-Haq (12), skipper Babar Azam (27) and Shan Masood (35) before reaching three figures.
Haq fell to a rash drive off Sodhi as the ball spun in and crashed onto the stumps.
Azam and Masood then put on 42 runs and were looking solid when Bracewell came into the act.
He first removed Azam with a sharp turning delivery that was edged to wicketkeeper Tom Latham, while Masood miscued a lofted shot and was caught by Kane Williamson at mid-off.