Double centurion Williamson piles on Pakistan’s miseries
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Kane Williamson's fifth double-hundred in Tests helped New Zealand piled up a mammoth 612 for 9 before captain Tim Southee declared the innings with his side 174 ahead.
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 almost doubled that tally. Apart from showing great patience during his unbeaten 200 off 395 balls, he demonstrated exemplary footwork against both Abrar Ahmed and Nauman Ali. On multiple occasions he skipped down the track, but instead of looking to hit the ball for a six, he focused on chipping it over the bower's head for four.
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. A couple of overs later, Williamson first whipped Nauman to fine leg and then used his feet to loft him over mid-on for two more fours. 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 Sodhi 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 with the shot 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 completed his five-for when Neil Wagner gloved a reverse sweep to the slip fielder.
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. With that, Southee called his batters back, and the teams went into tea.
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.
From the other end, Abrar mixed his legbreaks with googlies. He varied his pace as well, looping it as slow as 70kph to darting as fast as 90. But nothing bothered Williamson and Sodhi.
Williamson, after almost procrastinating for the first 11 overs of the day when he scored just six runs off 29 balls, 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 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.
Scoreboard at tea Thursday on the fourth day of the first Test between Pakistan and New Zealand at the National Stadium in Karachi:
Pakistan 1st innings 438 (Babar Azam 161, Agha Salman 103; T. Southee 3-69)
New Zealand 1st innings (overnight 440-6)
T. Latham c sub (Ghulam) b Ahmed 113
D. Conway lbw b Nauman 92
K. Williamson not out 200
H. Nicholls b Nauman 22
D. Mitchell c Sarfaraz b Ahmed 42
T. Blundell lbw b Wasim 47
M. Bracewell c Wasim b Ahmed 5
I. Sodhi c Azam b Ahmed 65
T. Southee c Masood b Nauman 0
N. Wagner c Salman b Ahmed 0
Ajaz Patel not out 0
Extras (b7, lb11, nb1, w2, penalty 5) 26
Total (for nine wkts dec, 194.5 overs) 612
Fall of wickets: : 1-183 (Conway), 2-231 (Latham), 3-272 (Nicholls), 4-337 (Mitchell), 5-427 (Blundell), 6-436 (Bracewell), 7-595 (Sodhi), 8-596 (Southee), 9-597 (Wagner)
Bowling: Hamza 26-3-83-0, Wasim 34-6-105-1, Ahmed 67.5-8-205-5, Nauman 63-5-185-3 (1nb, 2w), Azam 4-1-11-0
Umpires: Alex Wharf (ENG) and Aleem Dar (PAK)
TV umpire: Ahsan Raza (PAK)
Match referee: Muhammad Javed Malik (PAK)