New Zealand beat Pakistan by 101 runs after a breathtaking finish to the first Test in Mount Maunganui, where the visitors were just 27 balls from pulling off a battling draw.
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) December 30, 2020
Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah blocked for seven overs in fading light before Naseem was caught and bowled by spinner Mitchell Santner for one, ending Pakistan’s resistance.
The end for Pakistan had begun when Kyle Jamieson, celebrating his 26th birthday, broke the 165-run fifth-wicket stand by Fawad Alam and Mohammad Rizwan.
The victory was crucial for New Zealand, who need to sweep the two-Test series to have a chance of making the World Test Championship final at Lord’s in June.
Once Jamieson required the crucial wicket of Rizwan, lbw for 60, Neil Wagner — bowling despite breaking two toes while batting — removed Alam for 102 and New Zealand was into the tail as Pakistan folded from 240 for four to be all out for 271.
Jamieson gave a particularly miserly spell after the tea break when he sent down nine overs and took two for four.
Apart from when Pakistan beat out the New Zealand openers cheaply on day one, the match had been in New Zealand’s control until Rizwan, the stand-in Captain, joined Alam in the middle with Pakistan 75 for four on the final morning.
New Zealand needed six more wickets, Pakistan required 298 runs and more than 78 overs remaining.
At tea, Alam and Rizwan were yet together, Pakistan had narrowed the target to 158 in 36 overs and New Zealand still needed six wickets.
But Jamieson out Rizwan 11 overs into the final session.
Jamieson had moved close several times previously, and even his lbw shout against Rizwan was turned down before the umpire’s decision was overturned on review.
Alam, who had occupied the crease with Rizwan for more than 63 overs, lasted three more overs until he gloved a Wagner short ball to wicketkeeper BJ Watling down the leg-side.
Alam had been rejected by Pakistan in 2009 after three Tests and the best innings of 168, and since his recall this year his highest score was 21 against England in August.
There were a few loose shots early in his innings and a nerve-wracking moment when a ball ricocheted off his arm and bounced dangerously close to the stumps.
Unless, he staunchly held his own within 269 deliveries before bringing up his century with a four off Wagner, but scored only two more runs off his next 33 balls before his dismissal.
New Zealand’s frontline pace bowlers Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Wagner, Jamieson and Santner each took two wickets.
Another strike for Neil Wagner!
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) December 30, 2020
Williamson: That’s great (being the No. 1 Test team). It’s a game of small margins. It could have gone either way in the last session. It’s great to come away with a brilliant Test win against a great side like Pakistan. It’s a special moment. It (to play in the World Test Championship final) provides the context and added intensity, specially when it comes down to crunch moments like we saw today in the last session. There is the little carrot there. However, it’s not at the forefront of your mind because in Test cricket, there’s so much that goes in to manufacture a result. It’s moment by moment for five days, that’s why there’s so much enjoyment out of playing the game. It’s good that we are still in the hunt for that (top-two finish) but we know that there’s still a lot more cricket to be played. There was always that chance (of a Pakistan win). We did give a declaration, if the wicket didn’t deteriorate as much, then there’s a chance to chase it down. They did get on track to give that a nudge, certainly had some positive players at the crease, so there was that chance. That opportunity of the Test Championship meant that you may lose a game in trying to win it. You’d rather give yourself every chance to get across the line which we did and it did go our way. There were still three results possible in the last session. It’s great that it has its own characteristics. We saw similar characteristics in the first one that we played against England. We see a little bit of variable bounce specially when you hit the wicket hard. It’s pretty exciting that you’re playing within your country but on surfaces that are varied.
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) December 30, 2020
Rizwan: Not disappointed, that’s the beauty of Test cricket. We fought very well, we did very well. New Zealand did more hard work than us, so the result was in their favour. We made the right decision at the toss because we wanted to take few wickets early on. Fielding is very important in cricket, we collapsed in few catches. But after that, we must give credit to Williamson and his team. We went for that (win) after they declared. But, they took early wickets, that put us on the back foot. We thought of going for the chase again but they again picked a wicket in the second over today. New Zealand did very well, our guys fought well, but I must give credit to Wagner who bowled with an injured toe. We lost this match, but we are still in the series. We need to improve a bit in the batting department, our bowling is superb, our energy is superb.
Kane Williamson, Man of the Match: They (bowlers) were outstanding today, in fact they were outstanding throughout the whole game to be honest. The conditions were little different to what we experienced against the West Indies, but at the same time the conditions were fantastic as it brought spin into play as well. Huge effort from the bowlers to get across the line. A lot of credit goes to Pakistan for the way they fought, it looked a draw. In the end we are fortunate. We have a number of other leaders who have different perspectives, we always have that in our group. It was a fighting effort throughout the five days. A brilliant game as both teams put their best foot forward. In the second innings Pakistan were resilient in terms of not giving their wickets away. The wicket was quite difficult to score freely on.
When Pakistan were reduced to 0/2 before Tea on the fourth day and even a four-day finish wasn’t ruled out. But Azhar Ali and Fawad Alam blocked it out and took it to the final day with seven wickets in hand. When Boult nicked Azhar Ali in the second over of the day today, the New Zealand bowlers would have fancied an early finish. But, the duo of Fawad Alam and Rizwan had other ideas. While the former notched up his second Test ton (with the first one way back in 2009), the latter recorded his second fifty of the match. After going wicketless in the middle session and when they scored 11 runs off the first two overs post tea, there were a few who wondered if Pakistan were going for the win. However, Pakistan did a Pakistan and capitulated in the final session. The youngest member of the NZ team – Jamieson – broke the 165-run stand which lasted for 388 deliveries by trapping Rizwan lbw with an inducker and a successful review. Alam followed him soon falling to a Wagner short ball. When Abbas was trapped by Santner, New Zealand still had 12.2 overs to pick the final wicket. Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah did their best and negotiated more than 7 overs, but Santner dashed the Pakistan hopes of a draw with a brilliant return catch. Magnificent end to a magnificent Test match, Hang around for the presentations.