Karachi: Pakistan captain Babar Azam hit his ninth test hundred and alongside the recalled Sarfaraz Ahmed helped his team recover against New Zealand Monday in the first Test.
Babar raised his hundred off 161 balls with a six off Michael Bracewell (2-52) over midwicket just before tea as Pakistan progressed to 224-4.
New Zealand, playing its first Test in Pakistan in 20 years, had made early inroads and Pakistan stumbled to 110-4 in the first session before Babar, unbeaten on 119, and Sarfaraz (43 not out) rebuilt the innings with a 114-run stand.
Babar had a tough start against New Zealand spinners Ajaz Patel and Bracewell after captain Tim Southee brought on his slow bowlers as early as the fourth over on a dry and tacky wicket at National Stadium.
Daryl Mitchel dropped a regulation catch when Babar drove loosely at Bracewell on 12 and then also survived an lbw television referral in leg-spinner Ish Sodhi’s first over before lunch.
Babar could have been run out soon after lunch but Devon Conway couldn’t hit the stumps at the non-striker’s end with the Pakistan captain way out of his crease when Sarfaraz refused to go for a quick single.
Sarfaraz, playing his first test since January 2018 in place of the rested Mohammad Rizwan, made full use of his hometown conditions.
New Zealand came close to dismissing Sarfaraz on 26, but the batter successfully went for a TV referral after on-field umpire Aleem Dar adjudged him to be caught behind off Southee.
Earlier, Patel (1-69) and Bracewell found plenty of turn in the first hour after Southee lost the toss in his debut as New Zealand skipper and Babar elected to bat.
Southee read the slow and dry wicket quickly and brought on his spinners with the new hard ball just three overs old.
Patel got the breakthrough off his third ball as Abdullah Shafique (7) was stumped after getting beaten on two successive deliveries from the left-arm spinner.
Shan Masood (3) also tried an over-ambitious shot against Bracewell’s offspin and Tom Blundell got his second stumping before Imam-ul-Haq (24) played a reckless shot and holed out to Southee at mid-off to leave Pakistan struggling at 48-3.
Babar raised his fifty off 76 balls when he drove Sodhi through mid-on off the backfoot for his seventh boundary before Southee dismissed Saud Shakeel (22) in the penultimate over before lunch.
Shakeel, who scored four half-centuries in England’s 3-0 sweep against Pakistan last week, played a loose drive against Southee and offered a regulation catch in the gully just when it looked the pair had started to rebuild the innings.
Pakistan also brought Mir Hamza into the playing XI after the leftarm fast bowler played his only Test against Australia in 2018 in Abu Dhabi. Hamza replaced all-rounder Faheem Ashraf.
Imam, the opening batter, also returned to the side after missing Pakistan’s last Test because of a hamstring injury. Masood moved down the order at No. 3 as Azhar Ali retired from test cricket after playing his last test against England.
Southee was appointed captain for the two-Test series after Kane Williamson stepped down before the Black Caps’ first test tour to Pakistan since 2002.
New Zealand did play an ODI series in Pakistan in 2003 and was due to play a limited-overs series in Pakistan last year, but abandoned its tour just hours before the toss in the first ODI because of security concerns.
Weather concerns in Multan forced the Pakistan Cricket Board to organize the entire tour — two Test matches and three ODIs — in Karachi.
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