Black Caps take charge after Williamson’s unbeaten double

SUMMARY: Pakistan 438 (Babar Azam 161, Agha Salman 103; Tim Southee 3-69) and 77-2 (Imam ul Haq 45*) trail New Zealand 612-9 d (Kane Williamson 200*, Tom Latham 113, Devon Conway 92, Ish Sodhi 65; Abrar Ahmed 5-205) by 97 runs

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Kane Williamson got his fifth double ton in Test cricket, and shared a 159-run stand with Ish Sodhi that ground out Pakistan on the fourth day. It earned them a 174-run lead before New Zealand’s spinners struck twice later in the day, to drive home the advantage.

For the first half of the fourth day, it was the Williamson-Sodhi show as they batted for more than a session and a half to frustrate Pakistan. The duo added only 79 runs in the first session but set the tone that allowed New Zealand to get ahead steadily and take a healthy lead.

Both Sodhi and Williamson were largely comfortable on a pitch offering only slow turn, with the rough patches still wide off the stumps. As Nauman Ali wheeled away trying to hit those patches to create some doubt, it did little to deter the duo, who were able to work the runs away comfortably.

Ali came close to picking a wicket when he struck Williamson, on 116, on the pad and got his way with the on-field umpire. But a review revealed that the ball had pitched outside the leg stump.

Pakistan’s luck with the review remained bad, for this came soon after they wasted one against Sodhi. Mohammad Wasim Jr aimed to shape the old ball in and hit Sodhi with a full ball, but replays confirmed that it wasn’t worth a review for there had been a big inside edge.

With the old ball not offering enough bite, Pakistan also availed the third new ball when it became available. But while it came on quicker to the bat, New Zealand’s batters were not troubled too much. It offered more chances though.

Twice Sodhi edged through the vacant slip cordon, and once against Mir Hamza, just minutes before the lunch break, he got a feather on it but none of the players on the field picked it up. An appeal never came and it allowed Sodhi to march on and bring up a fifty in the second session.

Williamson punctuated his steady knock with lofts down the ground every now and then to keep the spinners guessing. He brought about more shots in the second session with the reverse sweep also turning out to be productive even though it was being played off the rough.

But New Zealand suffered a blip at the other end. Sodhi got a leading edge trying to loft a legbreak from Abrar and was caught at mid off, Tim Southee fell for a duck in similar fashion against Nauman Ali while Neil Wagner gloved a sweep to give Abrar his fifth. Three wickets in as many overs for just two runs threatened to leave Williamson stranded without a double ton.

But as Ajaz Patel kept out eight balls, Williamson managed a lofted six and a four over cover to bring up the milestone, taking him past Brendon McCullum in the all-time list for New Zealand.

It was also his second double ton against Pakistan, and that proved to be enough for Southee to declare at the stroke of Tea.

Armed with a first innings lead, New Zealand were on the attack right through, and it was met with positivity from Pakistan’s openers. Abdullah Shafique and Imam ul Haq added 47 before the former chipped an attempted loft of Michael Bracwell to mid on.

While Imam continued to be positive, unafraid to drive the spinners off the rough, there was a stutter at the other end. Shan Masood remained comfortable in his short 26-ball stay before he was caught LBW on the backfoot against Sodhi late in the day.

It capped off a fine day out for New Zealand, led by their former skipper, and left Pakistan in a precarious position heading into the final day. (cricbuzz)

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