Abu Dhabi: New Zealand’s left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel became an instant hero on debut with a five-wicket haul as they clinched a dramatic victory by four runs over Pakistan in the first Test with four sessions to spare at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium on Monday.
Chasing small totals are often tricky and Pakistan, known for their unpredictability, would have landed some of their weakhearted fans in distress as they made heavy of the small target of 176.
“It is quite surreal at the moment and quite hard to soak it in but I’m sure it will sink in next couple of hours or days. Definitely wouldn’t have dreamt to start any better. Being in a position to win your country a Test match and to do it in that fashion is quite special,” said an elated Patel, who finished with figures of five for 59 from 23.4 overs.
Skipper Kane Williamson rated the victory as one of the best in their Test match history. “Yes, without a doubt, the best in recent memory. We had couple of matches which were very close but certainly in this condition we know how hard it is. Pakistan are a very strong side and to go toe to toe for four days and stay in the match for as long as we did and come out with this result must obviously rank as one of our best wins,” said delighted Williamson.
The trouble for Pakistan started as soon as day four proceedings began as they lost three early wickets in eight deliveries. What looked like an easily achievable total straightaway looked daunting.
Imam ul Haq was the first to depart as Patel extracted sharp turn to rap him on his backpad for an easy leg before decision.
In the next over, Ish Sodhi made a double breakthrough to leave Pakistan in a spot of bother at 48 for three. Mohammad Hafeez ended up chipping one to Colin de Grandhomme at covers, while Haris Sohail handed a return catch to Sodhi off a low full toss.
Kiwis clearly had their tails up but Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali showed a lot of character and looked set to get Pakistan out of trouble with their watchful batting. That partnership of 82 for the fourth wicket put Pakistan on victory path but right at the stroke of lunch, there was more drama. A well set Shafiq, then on 45, chased a delivery from Neil Wagner moving away and was caught behind with Pakistan still needing another 46 with Azhar Ali on an unbeaten 40.
Everything started to fall apart after a mindless running between wickets, with Pakistan still needing 29 to win, saw Babar Azam get run-out. In walked skipper Sarfraz Ahmad, faced five balls and was walking back after he was given out caught behind following a review while attempting a sweep. Another 22 was needed with four wickets in hand and Bilal Asif did the unthinkable — went for a wild slog off Patel and was clean bowled.
The cat was clearly set among the pigeons and that was all the more evident with a nervous-looking Yasir Shah going after a tossed up delivery from Patel. The noise of bat smashing the ground was enough for the umpire to give him out before being overturned on review. Yasir couldn’t get his composure back and Wagner forced him to nick one to Ross Taylor at slips and Pakistan were now eight down with another 21 needed.
Azhar Ali took some pressure off with some attacking shots but Pakistan still needed 12 and someone at the other end to give him company. Hasan Ali, however, went for a glory shot of Patel and found substitute fielder Tim Southee at deep mid-wicket boundary.
Last-man Mohammad Abbas was now under pressure. Though he and Azhar tried to soak it all for 7.4 overs, slowly chipping away the remaining runs dealing in singles, they couldn’t get the team across the line as Azhar Ali was trapped by Patel on 65.