New Zealand’s Trent Boult celebrates with teammates after claiming a wicket. Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: New Zealand made a horror start to their second innings with Hassan Ali sending Tom Latham’s off stumps cartwheeling, but skipper Kane Williamson and Jeet Raval stood firm to end Day Two of the first Test at 56 for one in 22.4 overs at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium on Saturday.

Williamson was on an unbeaten 27 and Raval on 26, when umpires stopped play due to bad light with 4.2 overs remaining in day’s play. New Zealand trail Pakistan’s first innings total by 18 runs with the contest poised for an intriguing third day. “We did some hard work today. We finished off the day quite well, I felt. It’s evenly placed but need to do some good batting and see what kind of position we can get at the end of the day tomorrow. I don’t think we have thought about it (target) too much just yet,” said New Zealand left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel, who finished with two wickets on debut.

“It’s quite special taking the first Test wicket. At that time, I think I was still kind of didn’t know the whole situation, kind of still amazed at that achievement. That one wicket was something that you have worked a whole lot. It was quite a special moment,” added Patel.

Earlier, New Zealand, led by their strike bowler Trent Boult who finished with an impressive four for 54 in 18.2 overs, did not allow Pakistan to get to a first innings total they would have ideally liked. Riding on a 62 by Babar Azam, the hosts posted 227 in 83.2 overs to take a first innings lead of 74 runs.

“I was asking the tail not to hurry when I was playing with them but unfortunately they got out. I thought I could reach the three figure mark had there been support from other end,” said Babar.

“We will have to come out and get wickets early in the first session tomorrow. We have to look to get them out for as less total as possible. The lesser the total the better,” asserted Babar.

Pakistan, resuming the day on 59 for two, saw Azhar Ali and Harris Sohail make a cautious start. Boult was the only bowler who looked like getting a breakthrough. He induced Azhar to err while on 19 but only to see it being put down by Jeet Raval at mid-wicket.

A costly miss indeed but it didn’t hurt the Kiwis much as Boult, who was in tremendous rhythm, remained undeterred and kept probing outside off stump relentlessly. Azhar poked at a fuller delivery moving away from Boult and stumper B.J. Watling complemented it with an equally brilliant diving one handed catch.

All this happened immediately after frontline spinner Ish Sodhi had got a lucky breakthrough with the wicket of Sohail, who had worked hard for his 38, off a full toss.

The two new batters, Azam and Asad Shafiq immediately restored calmness and Pakistan inched closer to New Zealand’s modest first innings total of 153 with ease.

By lunch, the deficit was a mere nine and the partnership had swelled to 53.

Azam and Shafiq’s 83-run stand for the fifth wicket was ended by Boult with a peach of a delivery that the latter chopped it on to the stumps while on 42.

It was back-breaking effort for Neil Wagner for most part of the day. The left-arm pacer had come in with a reputation of 149 wickets from 36 matches at a strike rate of 52.9 but he didn’t prove much of a threat to the Pakistani batsmen.

Wagner kept banging it in short and rarely bothered to bowl fuller but the wicket of Yasir Shah toward the end of the Pakistan innings allowed him to reach the milestone of 150 wickets in his 37th Test.

For debutant left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel also, it was a toil in the first session as he couldn’t extract much from the wicket. However, his maiden Test wicket did come in skipper Sarfraz Ahmad post lunch and suddenly New Zealand were into Pakistan’s tail with the lead just 24.

A pumped up Patel then got Bilal Asif stumped — trying to go for a wild swing to a tossed up delivery and Pakistan were reduced to 195 for 7 with Babar running out of partners. The 24-year-old figuring in his 16th Test going on to score his eighth fifty as Pakistan went into tea with a lead of 72.