Abu Dhabi: New Zealand beat Pakistan by four runs in a sensational finish to the fourth day in Abu Dhabi on Monday, taking a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. Set 176 to win, Pakistan were bowled out for 171 with debutant left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel finishing with 5-59 and fast bowler Neil Wagner taking 2-27. Azhar Ali top-scored with 65 while Asad Shafiq made 45.
In the pantheon of infamous Pakistan implosions, this must rank right around the top. Pakistan were cantering to a victory around lunchtime, courtesy Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali, and the wicket of Shafiq off the last ball before lunch seemed no more than an inconsequential irritant.
But New Zealand, blindly, illogically, unreasonably, refused to write off this match as a lost cause, compelling Pakistan to believe the game was still on, the pressure all theirs to bear. And somewhere along the line in the middle session, Pakistan were convinced. New Zealand had won that game of poker, and, in the process, set the wheels in motion for a four-run victory, their narrowest Test win in history, and surely one of their most gratifying ones.
After lunch, Babar Azam lost his head and ran for a single his partner was least interested in, and just like that the panic set in. Sarfraz Ahmed, woefully short of confidence, edged a sweep – a shot that once was a strength but now appears to be a crutch. The tail was in, and the shots they played soon turned the panic into complete hysteria. Even as Pakistan lost their heads, New Zealand kept theirs. Azhar Ali was running out of partners without quite having the belief to take the game into his own hands, and he tried to inch Pakistan to victory with No. 11 Mohammad Abbas in tow. But, having blown their chance to waltz through the door, Pakistan soon found the back door slammed shut too by a New Zealand side playing their first Test cricket in over seven months.