Williamson, Somerville star as New Zealand seal historic series win

The last time New Zealand won a Test series in Asia, Ross Taylor was 21 days old. No other player from this Kane Williamson’s batch of 2018 was even born. The visitors, however, ended the 34-year wait in some style – trouncing Pakistan by 123 runs on the fifth and final day of the third Test in Abu Dhabi to secure the series 2-1. Williamson and Henry Nicholls turned the tide on Pakistan, who will look back at the Test as a series of missed opportunities that cost them dearly.

Once New Zealand were shot down for 274, Pakistan gained the advantage by cruising to 286 for 3. But a series of poor strokes saw them collapse to 348 all out. The 74-run lead, however, was still a pretty significant one considering the conditions. Sarfraz Ahmed’s poor captaincy, where he bowled the spinner unchanged on the fourth day despite Williamson and Nicholls getting used to the attack, the bowlers’ inability to stop the flow of runs on the final morning and Pakistan’s ability to botch up a chase were all on show as the visitors bossed their way to a convincing win.

Coming to the final day, New Zealand had a lead of 198. Williamson fell first ball – lbw to Hasan Ali – but the wicket brought more misery for Sarfraz and Co. New Zealand batted just nine overs in the day – scoring 81 and setting Pakistan 280. Nicholls got to his ton and attack with ease even when Yasir Shah got two in two to dismissed Colin de Grandhomme and BJ Watling. It was de Grandhomme’s quick 26 – off 19 balls – that set the tone and Nicholls drove home the advantage.

With a challenging target ahead of them, one would have expected the hosts to bat first to safety and then try and track down the target. Mohammad Hafeez, playing his last Test innings, was dropped at gully chasing a wide one from Tim Southee. Hafeez didn’t last long – undone by a beauty from Tim Southee that took the top of off – as the chase got off to an underwhelming start. The big wickets though was bagged by de Grandhomme. Azhar Ali was caught behind for just 5 as Pakistan slipped to 32 for 2.

The writing was already on the wall even before the Pakistan chase had begun – with four of the last five chases at the venue resulting in losses. Babar Azam fought hard for his 51 but survived a few close calls early on. He had been adjudged lbw just before lunch and was already walking off before Imam-ul-Haq called him back and forced him to review the call. Replays suggested there was an outside edge and the decision was reversed.

Imam was the last man to fall before Lunch – caught at short leg off the bowling of Ajaz Patel – as Pakistan went to the break at 55 for 5. In the second session, Sarfraz and Babar decided to attack early on and brought down the runs required below 200. The Pakistan captain was bowled by Somerville for 28 to leave Babar fending for himself, and the side, with the tail. Babar continued to enjoy some good fortune as he was dropped when on 50. There wasn’t much support from Bilal Asif or Yasir and with Hasan Ali struggling with a niggle at one end, there wasn’t much hope left for the set batsman. Babar did fall, just before the Tea break on 51, trying to hit Ajaz over mid-off before the visitors wrapped up formalities with ease.

Brief scores: New Zealand 274 (Kane Williamson 89; Bilal Asif 5-65) and 353/7 dec (Williamson 139, Henry Nicholls 126*; Yasir Shah 4-129) beat Pakistan 348 (Azhar Ali 134; William Somerville 4-75) & 156 (Ajaz Patel 3-42) by 123 runs.

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