PAK vs NZ: Babar, Sarfaraz shine on Boxing Day Test
After a jittery first half, Pakistan grew with each passing moment to dominate Day 1 of the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand. Babar Azam and Sarfaraz Ahmed stitched a colossal 196-run partnership to put the Kiwis under the cosh. The former completed his ninth Test ton (161*). Michael Bracewell and Ajaz Patel took two wickets each. Pakistan raced to 317/5 at stumps.
New Zealand take charge in the first session
Pakistan looked in tatters from the moment they were in the middle. They received quick blows, with both Abdullah Shafique and Shan Masood departing within seven overs. Imam-ul-Haq then drove a flighted delivery to be caught on 24. Kiwi skipper Tim Southee bowled full outside off, tempting Saud Shakeel to be caught at gully. Pakistan's score read 115/4 heading into lunch.
Unique record from Day 1
Kiwi spinners wreaked havoc right from the start and it didn't take them long to force a breakthrough. Ajaz Patel got Shafique (7) stumped out, while Bracewell tempted Masood (3) to charge down the track and get stumped. As per ESPNcricinfo, this was the first instance in men's Tests that the first two wickets in a match were stump dismissals.
Sarfaraz aces on his Test return
Sarfaraz, who replaced fellow wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan in the series opener, made an impactful return in Tests. He smashed a four off the very second delivery. He ran a double to complete his 19th Test fifty, his first on home soil. He was out on 86 off 153 deliveries (4s: 9). Interestingly, Sarfaraz last played a Test in January 2019 (vs South Africa).
Babar leads from the front!
Coming to bat at 19/2, Babar was dropped by Daryl Mitchell on 12 runs. He capitalized on the same thereafter. The skipper shared pivotal stands with Imam and Shakeel to rebuild Pakistan's innings. Babar raced to his century off 161 balls. He clocked his ninth ton in Test cricket. Babar (277-ball 161*) is joined by Agha Salman (3*) at the other end.
Kiwi bowlers toil hard in Karachi
Bracewell (2/61) and Ajaz (2/91) worked to get the breakthroughs for New Zealand on Day 1. Southee (1/51) was negated as the game progressed. Left-arm quick Neil Wagner (0/37) remained wicketless. Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi (0/49) was ineffective all throughout.
Babar breaks this record of Ponting
Babar now has 25 fifty-plus international scores as captain this year, now the most while leading across formats in a calendar year. He has broken the long-standing record of former Australian captain Ricky Ponting (24 in 2005). Former Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq follows Ponting in this regard (22 in 2013). Indian batter Virat Kohli registered 21 such scores in 2017 and 2019.
Babar-Sarfaraz put Pakistan on top
Babar and Shakeel plundered 62 runs before Sarfaraz walked in. Interestingly, NZ failed to bring down either Babar or Sarfaraz throughout the second session. The pair forged a 196-run stand for the fifth wicket. As per ESPNcricinfo, it is the third-highest such partnership by a Pakistani duo against NZ in Tests, behind Asif Iqbal and Javed Miandad (281) and Inzamam-ul-Haq and Saleem Malik (258).