New Zealand batting collapsed against Pakistan on Day 1…..
By now, it is fairly well established that the Sheik Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi is Pakistan’s qalea (fortress). If New Zealand were unaware about Pakistan’s supremacy at the venue, it didn’t take long for them to find out as the hosts skittled out the Kiwis by tea on day one of the first Test.
Save for a fighting, almost inspiring 72-run stand between Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls, none of the Black Caps batsmen settled down a wicket where Pakistan’s relentless pace attack kept nagging away in that arduous channel outside the off-stump and the spinners spit up dust from the soft mud.
The wicket had appeared to ease down for Nicholls and Williamson to play a few shots after a top-order collapse left them reeling at 39 for 3. The New Zealand skipper was in audacious touch and encouraged Nicholls to join the act with the surface apparently easing out. Mohammad Abbas, whose merciless lines had accounted Jeet Raval earlier in the day, kept nagging away as Williamson and Nicholls played with soft hands or left the ball with conviction.
In an anti-Brendon McCullum approach, the Kiwis were slowly yet firmly in the game as the run-rate which was around 2.1 before the lunch break picked up to around four post the break. Pakistan, though, is well familiar with the success mantra on these surfaces and persisted with their plan A. It eventually bore fruit as Nicholls chased a wide one from that man Mohammad Abbas to edge to the keeper, ending a 78-ball vigil that helped Williamson settle into his innings.
They say one brings more and Nicholls ill-advised drive off a widish delivery prompted the skipper to try something equally foolish. Hasan Ali, who had an ordinary opening spell, bowled an innocuous bouncer that Williamson might have slammed to the square leg fence all day long on another day. This time, though, he gloved the pull to the keeper, not managing to get on top of the bounce and thereby gifting a chance to the hosts who were at the batsmen all day long.
It proved to be the catalyst for a lower-order collapse and New Zealand lost their last five wickets for 30 runs including that of Colin de Grandhomme a ball after Williamson’s dismissal. Ali’s burst which accounted for the skipper and the all-rounder – de Grandhomme playing all around a reverse swinging delivery to be trapped in front – left the Kiwis limping and they succumbed to the lowest first innings total at Abu Dhabi – 153.
The ill-fated collapse came to post a top-order slump after New Zealand won the toss and opted to bat first, always the best recipe for success in sub-continental conditions. Jeet Raval and Tom Latham were at their staunchly best and despite runs not really coming through, the general sentiment was that the Kiwis had done their homework.
The first blow, though, proved to be a big one as it opened up their most diligent top-order batsman, Jeet Raval. Abbas, who had been stingy with his lines and barely gave the visitors any room, angled one across Raval and got it to straighten to eke out an edge from the opener’s defensive shot.
Raval’s wicket paved way for an even more pressure-inducing channel of attack. Bilal Asif stuck to his stump-to-stump lines while Abbas continued to toil away. Latham, an excellent player of spin, was tied down for room and run-scoring became bare minimum. The pressure eventually gave way as the left-hander looked to push Yasir Shah to the leg-side without reaching to the pitch of the delivery. The chip found short mid-wicket as Latham perished for 13 in 38 balls.
The leggie then removed the in-form batsman, Ross Taylor, with a quickish leg-break that put the batsman in two minds. Taylor was neither back nor forward as he hung his bat out to dry, the edge carrying to the keeper to leave New Zealand at 39 for 3.
While Williamson and Nicholls gave the innings a minor boost, the writing was on the wall once Hasan Ali struck twice before tea. Haris Sohail rubbed salt onto New Zealand’s wounds by nabbing a couple with his roundish left-arm spin to end a disastrous day with the bat for the Kiwis, a far cry from their admirable efforts on the UAE tour four years back under Brendon McCullum.
However, even then the Kiwis had kickstarted the Test leg on a poor note before ending with an innings win in the final Test to level the series. These are early days in the series and the visitors got a harsh reality check, one which they need to learn and adapt from.