The Black Caps were in trouble early on the first day of the first test against Pakistan, but Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor – who else? – came to their rescue at Bay Oval on Boxing Day on Saturday.
Captain Williamson walked out to the middle to face the fourth ball of the day, after Tom Latham was dismissed by Shaheen Shah Afridi for four, and was still there at stumps, seven-and-a-half hours later, unbeaten on 94 with his side 222-3 – though he did have a bit of luck.
Taylor joined him not long after, when Tom Blundell became Shaheen’s second victim of the day, and proceeded to mark his record 438th international appearance for New Zealand in all formats by making 70, his highest score since the visit from England to these shores last November.
The pair had to work hard, especially against the new ball duo of Shaheen (who took 3-55 off 20 overs) and Mohammad Abbas (a miserly 0-25 off 21), but once they got themselves set, they were able to lead their side to a total they would have been pleased with after losing the toss and being asked to bat.
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Their efforts – and those of Henry Nicholls, not out on 42 – ensured the 6285-strong crowd went home happy from their holiday outing – though that might not have been the case for the one escorted away early after a late afternoon streak.
Taylor arrived at the crease with the Black Caps 13-2 in the 11th over and took a more defensive approach than he usually does, but along with Williamson he ensured the Black Caps got to lunch with no further damage done and 55 runs on the board.
They had to reapply themselves after the interval and it was tough going, with just 19 runs added in 14 overs in the first hour.
Taylor brought up his half century off 127 balls, paddle-sweeping Yasir Shah for four to end a run of 10 test innings without one, then flicked Abbas for two in the next over to bring up the 100-run partnership between himself and Williamson – the 10th time they had reached that milestone together in a decade as team-mates.
After passing 50, Taylor’s game started to become more attacking. He swept Yasir for six, then for four, and at tea he was on 66, with 54 runs added in the second hour.
Williamson went into the interval on 49, but brought up his half century off the first ball back, glancing Shaheen into the leg side and running a single.
Taylor drove Shaheen through the covers for four in that over, but was beaten in his next, then dismissed by ball that was angled across him expertly and produced an edge through to keeper Mohammad Rizwan, ending his innings at 70 and their stand at 120.
With one end opened up, the hunt was on for Pakistan, and they missed a chance to get Henry Nicholls early, when he was dropped by Abbas at fine leg on six hooking Naseem Shah.
Williamson survived a scare in the over after the new ball was taken, when Shaheen took his edge, but Haris Sohail couldn’t gather it low down at first slip, while the left-armer also had a strong LBW shout with five overs to play that wasn’t reviewed. It initially appeared Williamson had hit it first, but further replays showed it had struck him on the front pad before it hit his bat, then his back pad.
The Black Caps scored 94 runs in the final session of the day while only losing Taylor and are well-poised to kick on when play resumes at 11am on Sunday, though afternoon showers are forecast.
Shaheen began the day on fire, squaring Latham up first ball and getting an edge that ran away to the third man boundary, then getting another with his third ball which flew to Azhar Ali at third slip to send the opener on his way for a duck.
He then dismissed Latham’s opening partner, Blundell, in his sixth over, getting an edge off a drive, which Yasir did well to grab down low in the cordon.
While Pakistan toiled hard on the field, they suffered a blow off it, with all-rounder Shadab Khan ruled out of the second test in Christchurch, as he’s been advised to have six weeks’ rest to recover from a thigh injury.
At Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui: Black Caps 222-3 (Williamson 94, Taylor 70; Shaheen 3-55) met Pakistan.