Saturday Dec 26, 2020
MOUNT MAUNGANUI: New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor fought back after losing quick wickets on day one of the first Test in Mount Maunganui on Saturday.
The kiwis were 222 for three at stumps with the skipper scoring an unbeaten 94.
Henry Nicholls was the other not out batsman on 42 as New Zealand recovered from being 13 for two after Pakistan's baby-faced destroyer Shaheen Afridi removed openers Tom Latham and Tom Blundell cheaply on a green, seaming wicket.
In a 120-run stand, filled with determination and concentration in difficult conditions, Williamson and Ross Taylor pulled New Zealand back into the game.
Taylor hit 10 fours and a six as he attacked the bowling while Williams was more conservative.
After Afridi split the pair with a masterful piece of bowling to remove Taylor for 70, Williamson and Henry Nicholls added a further 89.
Taylor was set up to fall by Afridi who bowled full, short then a bouncer in successive deliveries and followed with a good-length, rising ball that Taylor could not resist slashing at.
But he succeeded only in feathering the ball to Mohammad Rizwan behind the stumps.
The 20-year-old Afridi, with his baby face and standing 1.99 metres (6ft 6in) tall, also removed Latham for four and Blundell for five to end the day with three for 55.
Mohammad Abbas, while not taking a wicket, kept the batsmen pinned down and conceded only 25 runs off his 21 overs.
Afridi's opening onslaught had New Zealand at two for 13 before Williamson and Taylor combined in a century partnership, their 10th together.
By stumps, Williamson had faced 243 deliveries after being in the middle for all but the first three balls before Latham was dismissed.
The closest Pakistan came to dismissing the New Zealand captain came before lunch with Williamson on 18 when Shan Masood spilled a difficult one-handed chance low to his left.
Naseem Shah was the unfortunate bowler and the teenaged quick was to suffer again when he tempted Nicholls, on six, to hook a short ball only for Mohammad Abbas, waiting for the catch at long leg, to drop the regulation chance.
It was a continuation of the good fortune going Nicholls´ way after he was dropped five times on his way to 174 in his last innings against the West Indies.
New Zealand's late push for a place in next year's International Cricket Council's World Test Championship final will come to a head against an injury-hit Pakistan when their two-test series begins in Mount Maunganui.
Kane Williamson's side are third behind Australia and India and need to win both the first game at Bay Oval and then the second from Jan. 3-7 at Hagley Oval in Christchurch to give themselves any chance of making the final at Lord's.
Williamson, however, was well aware they would also need other results go their way, which may account for him attempting to downplay the underlying significance of the series.
"I think the context of that (the test championship) is great for the game in general," he told reporters this week. "But our focus ... is to basically start again.
"It's about coming back to the basics and playing what is in front of us rather than getting too carried away with potential things."
New Zealand's chances of sweeping the series have been boosted by the return of top batsman Williamson, who missed the innings and 12-run victory over West Indies in Wellington as he awaited the birth of his first child.
Tim Southee also has added motivation for the first match, with the pace bowling spearhead just four wickets away from joining Richard Hadlee and Daniel Vettori as the third New Zealand bowler to achieve 300 test wickets.