Pakistan 438 and 77 for 2 (Imam 45*, Sodhi 1-17) trail New Zealand 612 for 9 dec (Williamson 200*, Latham 113, Conway 92, Abrar 5-205) by 97 runs
The fifth double hundred by Kane Williamson in Test cricket helped New Zealand pile up a mammoth 612 for 9 before Tim Southee declared the innings with his side 174 ahead in the first Test in Karachi. By stumps, the visitors had struck twice, leaving Pakistan 77 for 2, still 97 behind.
Having relinquished the red-ball captaincy, Williamson came into this game with questions over his form. His away record in the last few years too didn’t paint a great picture; since the start of 2019, he had just 233 runs in eight away Tests, at an average of 15.53 with a best of 48.
But on Thursday, he demonstrated tremendous patience, great control, and exemplary footwork against spin to almost double that tally. He scored an unbeaten 200 off 395 balls; according to ESPNcricinfo’s logs, he was in control 93% of the time. On multiple occasions he skipped down the track to Abrar Ahmed and Nauman Ali, but instead of looking to hit the ball for a six, he focused on chipping it over the bower’s head for four. In all, he struck 21 fours and a six.
Along with Ish Sodhi, who scored a career-best 65, Williamson added 159 for the seventh wicket. The two overnight batters kept Pakistan wicketless in the first session, which seemed to have borrowed the laziness from a winter morning. In 32 overs in that session, New Zealand added just 79 runs, with Sodhi’s contribution being more than Williamson’s.
But post-lunch, both batters, especially Williamson, increased the scoring rate. Sodhi brought up his half-century with a four off Abrar. In the next over, Williamson steered Mir Hamza to the deep-third boundary to get to his 150. Shortly afterwards, Williamson first whipped Nauman to the fine-leg boundary and then used his feet to loft him over mid-on for another four. The change in the approach meant the first ten overs after lunch fetched New Zealand 47 runs.
To stem the flow of runs, and to break through, Mohammad Wasim bowled a barrage of short balls to Sodhi, starting around the wicket and then switching to over. He even hit Sodhi on the helmet. But the batter pulled the very next ball, another short one, to the square-leg boundary.
From the other end, Nauman switched to over the wicket and started bowling outside leg stump. Williamson countered that with the reverse sweep, picking up back-to-back boundaries to keep the scoreboard moving.
Sodhi went past his previous best of 63 but fell soon after, miscuing Abrar to mid-off. Southee didn’t last long either and was also taken at mid-off, off Nauman. In the next over, Abrar dismissed Neil Wagner to complete his five-for as New Zealand lost three wickets in two runs.
Williamson was on 186 at that point, and with No. 11 Ajaz Patel for company, farmed the strike as much as possible. On 195, he skipped down the track to Abrar and chipped him wide of long-off for four. A single on the next ball, took him to the double-hundred. New Zealand declared once he reached the milestone.
In response, Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique started solidly against a new, turning-from-the-rough ball. Throughout the 31 overs New Zealand bowled in the evening, they had spin at least from one end, mostly from both. Ajaz shared the new ball with Southee, who bowled only three overs in his first spell before throwing ball to Michael Bracewell.
It was Bracewell who eventually broke the 47-run opening stand when Shafique skipped down the track and hit one straight to mid-on. Sodhi dealt a late blow, trapping Shan Masood lbw for 10. At stumps, Imam was batting on 45, nightwatchman Nauman keeping him company on 4.
In the morning, Sodhi was mainly focused on protecting his wicket. He tried to score only when the bowlers really erred in their lines and lengths. Wasim pitched one short and wide, and Sodhi cut it through point for four. When spinners dropped it short and strayed down the leg side, he went for the pull but on a sluggish pitch, the timing eluded him.
Wasim played around with his field. At one point, he had a leg gully, a catching backward square leg, and two catching short midwickets for Sodhi. He went slightly round-arm, searching for the reverse-swinging yorker, but couldn’t get his length right, and Sodhi faced little trouble blocking those. One such delivery found Sodhi’s inside edge and thudded into his pads. Aleem Dar ignored the stifled appeal for lbw, but Babar Azam, more in hope than anything else, ended up burning Pakistan’s final review over that.
Abrar, meanwhile, mixed his legbreaks with googlies. He varied his pace as well, tossing it up as slow as 70kph to darting in as fast as 90. But nothing bothered Williamson and Sodhi. After almost procrastinating for the first 11 overs of the day when he scored just six runs off 29 balls, Williamson skipped down the ground to Abrar and punched him over his head for four.
With little happening for the bowlers, Pakistan took the third new ball as soon as it became available. Hamza got produced a chance immediately, inducing an outside edge of Sodhi’s bat but it flew for four through the vacant second-slip region. The one that carried into Sarfaraz Ahmed’s gloves shortly afterwards, off the same bowler, no one seemed to notice. That was the second life for Sodhi; Sarfaraz had earlier dropped him down the leg side off Nauman.