Azhar Ali ton, Asad Shafiq fifty as Pakistan take control

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Azhar Ali ton, Asad Shafiq fifty as Pakistan take control | Cricket | ESPNcricinfo Pakistan v New Zealand, 3rd Test, Abu Dhabi, 3rd day December 5, 2018 Azhar Ali ton, Asad Shafiq fifty as Pakistan take control The Report by Danyal Rasool Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Azhar Ali raises his arms in celebration © Getty Images

Pakistan 224 for 3 (Azhar 111*, Shafiq 55*) trail New Zealand 274 by 50 runs

If yesterday talk of couples had revolved around Trent Boult and Tim Southee, today it was all about Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, whose partnership stands undefeated at 139. The two rocks of Pakistan's middle order took their side within 50 runs of New Zealand's first-innings score on the third day in Abu Dhabi.

In the process, Azhar reached his first Test hundred since Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan's retirements, while Shafiq looks well on his way to converting a good start, unbeaten on 55.

Unlike the pace at which the game has been played so far, Pakistan got off the blocks lightning fast, scoring at above four an over for the first hour. The ball and gone soft and with neither of New Zealand's premier fast bowlers quite as effective until after the new ball was available, Azhar and Shafiq saw fit to make hay. There were regular boundaries to be had, and aside from a couple of deliveries keeping low, nothing to disquiet a settled pair at the top of their game.

Will Somerville, who was New Zealand's most economical bowler, managed to keep the runs down from his end, but didn't quite have the bite to take advantage of a pitch that rewarded both Yasir Shah and Bilal Asif on the first two days. It may be taking less turn than it had earlier, but one can't help think Pakistan's spinners would have found a way to be far more troublesome to the batsman; it is the one facet of the game where the visitors find themselves clearly outclassed.

Boult and Southee were able to regain a measure of control in the 10 overs after the new ball was taken. Boult, particularly from around the wicket, gave Shafiq a number of jumpy moments, exploiting movement both ways, as well as the angle, to beat the batsman on multiple occasions. He was judicious in the use of the short ball, too, which was well directed. But Shafiq overcame the habit of giving his wicket away after a good start to ensure Pakistan finished the session with no wickets lost.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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