Henry Nicholls, Kane Williamson tons set Pakistan 280 to win
by The Report by Danyal Rasool · 6 months ago
The visitors smashed 81 in nine overs on the final morning before declaring on 353 for 7New Zealand 274 (Williamson 89, Watling 77*, Bilal 5-65) and 353 for 7 dec (Williamson 139, Nicholls 126*, Yasir 4-129) beat Pakistan 348 (Azhar 134, Shafiq 104, Somerville 4-75) and 156 (Babar 51, Ajaz 3-42, Somerville 3-52) by 123 runsFor all the excuses Pakistan and their support staff come up with, for all the platitudes of disappointment and frustration that will be bandied around in press conferences, no one could justify what has taken place over the past couple of days. Mickey Arthur said after the first Test here in Abu Dhabi that Pakistan cricket had the ability to move on, and it looks like they've moved on without learning a single thing from it.
A remarkable turnaround from New Zealand produced 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 repeated the formula in the decider, skittling out a listless, spineless Pakistan for 156. 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, which they relinquished 2-1 to the visitors. It is the second series loss in last three for Pakistan at their adopted home, after going unbeaten here for almost a decade.
Where there was class from New Zealand on the fourth day, there was complacency from Pakistan on the third and a capitulation on the fifth. Having blown their chance to bat New Zealand out of the game, they lacked the powers of concentration to see out 80 overs on the final day. Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls' partnership alone had spent 24 more overs out in the middle than the entire Pakistan lineup on a fifth day that could not have gone better for Williamson if he had demanded it at a wishing well.
Ajaz Patel and William Somerville took three wickets each, with Somerville enjoying a brilliant debut. He can take satisfaction in being the architect of the comeback on the third day after a somewhat toothless start to his bowling career. On day five, however, he looked a completely different bowler, with confidence shimmering in all aspects of his game, tossing the ball up and beating the Pakistan batsmen in the flight. His seven wickets were the fourth-best figures by a New Zealand player on debut, and the glisten in the eyes told of how much it meant to the 34-year-old who had perhaps wondered if such a moment would ever be his.
Sarfraz Ahmed and Babar Azam took some control during the middle stages, but nothing short of a wicketless session would do for the hosts. While Sarfraz played in the mould of the player he used to be before becoming captain, he seemed to have found a way to survive in the middle. One wonders why he has lost the confidence to play that way more often, because as things stand, his contributions have rarely amounted to something that advances his side's cause. Babar's half-century was a bright spot in a dispiriting series for Pakistan, and a reminder he will have to carry an increasing burden over the weeks and months to come, most immediately in the series in South Africa later this month. When he fell looking to go over the top, Pakistan just had Nos. 10 and 11 at the crease, and the end was inevitable.
A chase of 280 had begun with Mohammad Hafeez dropped off the first ball he faced, allowing him to avoid 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 naïve 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.
Somerville then got rid of Haris Sohail and Asad Shafiq off consecutive balls, blowing away realistic hopes of Pakistan salvaging a draw. The day had started with New Zealand letting their hair down. In a wildly entertaining mini-session, Nicholls took charge with his unbeaten 126, and with assistance from de Grandhomme and 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 set 280 in 79 overs, a win for the hosts looked impossible.
Williamson's dismissal off the first ball of the day 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.
Pakistan could manage none of the commitment, quality, mental strength or dynamism of the visitors in just about every single moment that mattered across both Tests in Abu Dhabi. It seems a shocking claim, but in truth, they should have walked away with a 3-0 win. Instead, they ceded this series to a side that refused to believe it was beaten against one that, worryingly, looks like it has forgotten how to win.