New Zealand’s openers steady after Agha Salman’s century lifts Pakistan

Tea New Zealand 41 for 0 (Latham 20*, Conway 17*) trail Pakistan 438 (Babar 161, Salman 103, Southee 3-69) by 397 runs

Agha Salman scored his maiden Test hundred while piling on quick, useful runs with the tail to guide Pakistan to 438 in the afternoon session. In response, Tom Latham and Devon Conway looked steady in an unbeaten stand of 41 at tea despite the odd ball from the spinners scooting low, and the pitch also continuing to provide turn.
The New Zealand openers had some nervous moments during their 14 overs of stay: first when Mohammad Wasim took a full delivery past Latham’s outside edge in the fourth over, and then on Abrar Ahmed’s first ball to start off the seventh which zipped through low to hit Conway in front and excite the legspinner. But the ball had pitched outside leg before turning towards middle and off.
But in between, Conway had punched and slashed Mir Hamza for boundaries after only five runs came in the first four overs. Both Conway and Latham drove confidently, and when Wasim seemed to have resorted to a short-ball plan, Latham pulled and ramped him for boundaries in the tenth over.
Earlier, Pakistan’s last four wickets fetched 120, with Salman scoring 99 of those in partnerships of 54 with Nauman Ali, 39 with Hamza and 24 with Abrar. Salman had started the afternoon session unbeaten on 54, with Hamza for company. The first ball he faced post lunch was punched to the long-off boundary as Neil Wagner continued to use the short-ball tactic. Salman racked up his last 49 runs from just 45 balls, smashing ten fours to ensure Pakistan crossed the 400-run mark and eventually went much beyond that.

Salman attacked Wagner, often making room to swat or pull his short deliveries. And when Wagner tried something different, Salman hit three fours in the 125th over: swung to deep square leg, lofted over extra cover off a full length, and slapped to deep point when Wagner went for a slower ball.

Confident of his aggressive strokes, Salman reverse swept Ish Sodhi a few times, before raising his century off a pull when Sodhi pitched it short outside leg. Finally, Tim Southee trapped him in front when the batter tried to hoick across the line but missed, albeit not before frustrating New Zealand with the tailenders.

Southee had also dismissed Babar Azam with the fourth ball of the day before a dull period in the morning followed. The visitors struck late twice though, after Babar wasn’t able to add to his overnight score of 161. That quietened things to the extent that Salman and Nauman went 28 balls without scoring, starting with the third ball of the 95th over.

Nauman got off the mark off his sixth delivery, only to next score off his 48th when he slog swept Ajaz Patel for four. Salman kept ticking things along at the other end, as New Zealand challenged Aleem Dar’s not-out decision for a leg-before appeal when he was on 36. Replays showed Sodhi’s ball was turning in enough to miss leg stump.

But New Zealand finally broke the frustrating stand which lasted more than 26 overs, when Wagner, brought into the attack with the short-ball ploy in mind, sent Nauman back just before lunch. Michael Bracewell at a short square leg plucked a catch leaping to his left as Nauman tried to pull a rising short delivery, before Sodhi got his first Test wicket in four years when Wasim tried a funky scoop shot to a short ball, only for the ball to pop up and into Tom Blundell’s gloves.

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