There have not really been any areas of Pakistan’s performances in the last few weeks that merit greater questioning. The only one, if we are being picky, was over the place of Mohammed Hafeez, specifically at the top of the order.
Hafeez has been out of the Test side but was recalled ahead of the series against Australia. It was almost as much for his bowling as a more than useful third spinner as it was for his batting. In the two Tests against Australia he was the only batsman in the top seven to not hit at least a fifty.
So this Test against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi has been an important one for him and he followed a 96 in the first innings with a sixth Test hundred on the fourth day, his first in over two years; that and more spin took Pakistan to the brink of a series-opening triumph.
New Zealand ended the day on 174 for eight, overwhelmed but not yet defeated. They need, improbably, another 306 runs but at least Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig put forth some resistance in batting out nearly 15 overs to take the match to a fifth day.
“It’s a great feeling, especially in this format, to come out and get runs,” he said. “I was struggling here and at the start of this Test I was really low on confidence. But all my teammates and the coaching staff really pushed me, they really wanted me to score runs and they really gave me that support.”
Hafeez was at it with the ball, too, taking the crucial wicket of Kane Williamson, New Zealand’s best player of spin.
That has been the pattern through the season, Hafeez not only providing inexperienced bowlers with some steady support, but also taking critical wickets.
“It’s always worked for me that way. I see my bowling always as an added [factor] for me and the team. It’s important for me to go out there and do that for the team.”
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