“What stood out on the day was the unrelenting line that the players stuck to; the importance of bowling a length that cramps up the rivals for room and most importantly – containing runs, because in an attempt to break free, batsmen, more often than not, are forced to walk back to the pavilion”
Yet another Test match played by Pakistan. Yet another bowling performance that left the cricketing realm awe-inspired at the talent that the bowlers from the nation possess. As Sarfraz Ahmed’s men skittled out New Zealand for just 153 runs – the lowest first innings total at Abu Dhabi – we witnessed the tactfully poor Kiwi batsmen up against the nagging Mohammad Abbas and the wily Yasir Shah as they went about their task with ruthless dominance.
After Kane Williamson opted to bat first in the first Test between the two sides, it was the home team, who have been playing in UAE constantly since the Asia Cup in September, that made the first session theirs. By applying constant pressure and by preventing any batter to settle down, the new-ball pair of Abbas and Hasan Ali ensured that no easy runs were there for the taking.
However, a spirited bowling display is not something that is unheard of within the Pakistani camp in the last 12 months. In 6 Tests, Pakistani bowlers have picked up 95 wickets with a stunning average of 22.85, which is only behind South Africa’s average of 22.10 in the interim. In wins since November 2017, the Pakistani bowlers have an average of 22.40, which indicates how crucial their performance has been in the side triumphing in the last year.
On Friday too, a lot relied on the men with the cherry against a team who have world-class batsmen that can take the game away if they get their eyes in. The manner in which Abbas kept poking the same lengths to Jeet Raval, which ultimately lead to his dismissal, was a treat to watch; the batsmen offering a shot out of frustration to a ball that should have been left alone.
This ability to contain the flow of runs increased the pressure on the rest of the order too. With Abbas offering just no breathing space and with Bilal Asif hardly giving anything away in his first session, runs dried up, while the batsmen looked at ways to break free. Tom Latham, who had tried desperately to break the shackles failed to reach the pitch of a Shah delivery, getting the inside half of the bat to clip away to short mid-wicket. Though it can be said that he gifted his wicket away, the dismissal was more a victory for the bowlers, who had done well to contain the batsman till then, and who eventually gave away his wicket whilst looking to break the momentum.
It was only in the post-lunch session, when the run-rate increased from 2.18 to 4.2 that the Pakistani bowlers were forced to let their shoulders droop. Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls took advantage of the 150-minute session – extended due to Friday prayers – and piled on some quick runs, looking comfortable in the process. The post-lunch session saw the visiting team looking at ease, and with the wicket flattening out as well, it did seems as if the skipper would once again help his side salvage some pride.
However, a loose shot from Nicholls, who chased a full ball that was bowled at 128.4kmph by Abbas undid all the efforts, after he had done well to navigate the balls bowled around the off-stump. The momentum drastically shifted in the favour of the Pakistani side, and they ensured that New Zealand would not get away this time, swooping 7 wickets for 42 runs.
Hasan Ali’s exhilaration – he had looked the least impactful bowler in the first session – in the second innings, where a short ball that kept low saw Williamson hooking, when instead he could have played any other shot, and a stump-to-stump delivery that crammed Colin de Grandhomme up for room exposed the tail made it a memorable outing for the Pakistani bowlers.
What stood out on the day was the unrelenting line that the players stuck to; the importance of bowling a length that cramps up the rivals for room and most importantly – containing runs, because in an attempt to break free, batsmen, more often than not, are forced to walk back to the pavilion.