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Abu Dhabi Test: Pakistan two wickets away from victory

A ninth wicket stand of 36 in 14.5 overs between Mark Craig (27) and Ish Sodhi (27) delayed Pakistan’s victory on the fourth day at Sheikh Zayed Stadium but New Zealand were struggling on 174-8 after being set a daunting target of 408.

Pakistan need just two wickets on the final day for a 1-0 lead in the three-match series while New Zealand still need 306 for an unlikely win on the fifth and final day.

Spinners Zulfiqar Babar (2-30) and Yasir Shah (2-49) and seamer Rahat Ali (2-38) destroyed the New Zealand batting.

Earlier Mohammad Hafeez hit an unbeaten 101 to help Pakistan declare their second innings on 175-2 before the bowlers took over and skittled the Kiwi batsmen.

It was a weak batting display by New Zealand who promised a lot before the Test but only Brendon McCullum (39), Corey Anderson (23) and Kane Williamson (23) offered little resistance.

McCullum and Tom Latham (20) gave New Zealand a confident start of 57 runs before Babar had first innings centurion Latham top-edging a sweep to Shah.

Four runs later Shah trapped McCullum and then had Ross Taylor out in the same fashion for eight, leaving New Zealand reeling at 47-3.

Anderson and Williamson added 42 for the fourth wicket but calamity struck as three wickets fell in the space of just five balls.

Hafeez had Williamson stumped while Rahat dismissed Jimmy Neesham and BJ Watling off successive deliveries — both without scoring.

Rahat’s pace partner Imran Khan then had Anderson leg-before as the batsman offered no stroke to a straight delivery while Babar cleaned up Tim Southee for five.

Hafeez reached his sixth Test hundred, with a couple off McCullum. In all he hit two sixes and 12 boundaries during his 130-ball knock.

It was Hafeez’s first century since his 196 against Sri Lanka in July 2012.

The first session saw Younis and Hafeez batting solidly.

Younis, who hit a brilliant 100 not out in the first innings, survived a leg-before referral, but he fell soon after lunch to Sodhi, who finished with 2-66.

Hafeez opened up after a cautious start, hitting boundaries off paceman Trent Boult and then he hit two off Sodhi to complete his fifty and follow up on his 96 in Pakistan’s first innings of 566-3 declared.

Pakistan, resuming at 15-0, had looked for quick runs but were checked by disciplined New Zealand bowling.

Sodhi removed Azhar Ali for 23 to give his team the early breakthrough. -AFP



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