Ajaz Patel spins New Zealand to thrilling victory over Pakistan in 1st Test
ABU DHABI (Web Desk) – Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq fought hard for Pakistan, but New Zealand held on to steal a four-run win in the first Test in Abu Dhabi. Patel, the left-arm spinner, took five wickets including the final scalp of a resolute Ali to take New Zealand over the line by four runs. It would be an understatement to say the Test was a cliffhanger, Pakistan losing four wickets after lunch in a manic period of play to slip from 147/4 to 155/8, which became 164/9 not long after. Ali and Mohammad Abbas then added 16 runs to get within one hit of sealing victory, but Patel struck the decisive blow, trapping Ali for 65. Either side of a sublime 82-run stand between Ali and Shafiq, Pakistan lost wickets in a heap, Patel, leg-spinner Ish Sodhi and pacer Neil Wagner doing most of the damage. Pakistan began the day at 37 for no loss, but in no time were reduced to 48/3. The dangerous Imam-ul-Haq was the first to fall, pinned in front for 27 when Patel got one to spin in sharply. Mohammad Hafeez, the other opener, then chipped a drive off Sodhi straight to cover before Haris Sohail hit a juicy full toss back to the same bowler just three deliveries later. Shafiq and Ali then joined forces for an 82-run stand for the fourth wicket to put Pakistan firmly in sight of victory, The batsmen had nervy moments early on, but steadied themselves to put the pressure back on New Zealand. The New Zealand bowlers didn't help their cause. Sodhi got purchase off the surface, but his lengths weren't on the money. Patel too struggled with his areas at that stage. Shafiq, who scored a fine 43 in the first innings, again fell short of his fifty when Wagner, at the stroke of lunch, surprised him with a full ball after a barrage of bouncers to induce a feather to the keeper, leaving Pakistan 46 to get with six wickets still in the kitty. But things started going downhill after the break. Babar Azam was run out for 13, and Sarfraz Ahmed then gloved an attempted sweep shot off Patel onto his pads, the ball lobbing up for an easy catch to the keeper. Patel reaped more reward when Bilal Asif tried to launch him over the park only to miss and have his stumps rattled. Yasir Shah was ruled out caught behind the very next ball when he tried to go inside out, but the decision was overturned on review as there was no edge. But Yasir poked at one outside off soon after to fall for a duck to Wagner, leaving Pakistan 21 to get with two wickets to spare. Ali then looked to play more aggressively to try and get over the line, but Hasan Ali decided to repeat the mistake of hitting out, and after a few near-edges finally toe-ended a swat to deep mid-wicket, where Tim Southee took a safe catch. Abbas showed the kind of application and calm-headedness that Pakistan would have liked to see higher up the order. He defended what he could and left some alone but resisted the temptation of trying to go over the top. Ali farmed the strike, and trusted Abbas with the strike on the fourth or fifth delivery every over, and the No.11 dealt very well. Abbas's approach meant Ali didn't have to take unnecessary risks, but he finally missed a defensive push off Patel to concede an exciting victory to New Zealand.