Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq settle as Pakistan inch towards lead

Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq settle as Pakistan inch towards lead - ESPNcricinfo Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq settle as Pakistan inch towards lead --> < > MenuESPN ScoresAll cricket scores, fixtures and results here. More ESPNEdition Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq settle as Pakistan inch towards lead27mThe Report by Danyal Rasool'Reverse swan' Root praises England for sticking to attacking mindset18hAndrew Miller'Oye Hoye'! Is that the most bizarre trophy in cricket?21hESPNcricinfo staffCan a home spin get Australia back on track?1dAlex MalcolmWhy women's cricket appeals to all cricket watchers now6hSanjay Manjrekar'My parents were going to watch the men's Tests in Sri Lanka!' - Linsey Smith on WWT20 call-up2dRaf Nicholson in St LuciaHow the six Mzansi Super League teams stack up2dLiam BrickhillPoonam Yadav, India's pint-size magician3dAnnesha Ghosh'I dream of batting against Saeed Ajmal and bowling to Shahid Afridi'1dAnnesha GhoshShastri a yes-man? 'Most bizarre' says defiant Kohli2dVishal Dikshit in MumbaiKohli wants batsmen to 'show more character' in Australia2dVishal Dikshit in MumbaiNo more chopping and changing in ODIs - Ravi Shastri2dESPNcricinfo staffIns and Outs of the IPL trade window2dESPNcricinfo staffSunrisers retain David Warner for IPL 2019, Wriddhiman Saha released2dESPNcricinfo staffTough sharing the Test series trophy at home - Mahmudullah2dMohammad IsamZimbabwe's fight a big takeaway for satisfied Masakadza2dMohammad IsamBalls to statistics: Ben Stokes' moments of brilliance show his true value2dGeorge Dobell in PallekeleSingapore crush Uganda; USA outlast Denmark to stay unbeaten2dPeter Della Penna in MuscatTaylor overcomes neck injury to take career-best 4 for 122dESPNcricinfo staff'I don't know what happened' - Jahanara after Bangladesh lost chasing 982dESPNcricinfo staffStephen Fleming helps lure Dwayne Bravo to Melbourne Stars2dESPNcricinfo staffContaining Kohli in first 10-15 balls will be key - Mike Hesson3dESPNcricinfo staffAustralia players to have only limited IPL role2dDaniel BrettigBCCI panel wraps up hearings after Johri, two complainants depose3dNagraj GollapudiInjured Holder out of Bangladesh tour; K Brathwaite to lead in Tests3dESPNcricinfo staffMCC back-track on beamers rule after criticism from grassroots3dESPNcricinfo staffGlenn Maxwell critical of 'broken' start to Australian season3dDaniel BrettigStarc released from IPL amid Australia contracts debate3dDaniel BrettigTicketmaster apologises for World Cup mix-up3dESPNcricinfo staffMegan Schutt in awe of Alyssa Healy's consistency3dESPNcricinfo staffIreland captain gutted after Nashra Sandhu applies the squeeze3dESPNcricinfo staffRohit rested for first four-dayer in NZ amid workload concerns4dESPNcricinfo staffDilhara Lokuhettige faces corruption charges relating to T10 League4dAndrew Fidel FernandoMystery lung condition forces John Hastings into retirement4dESPNcricinfo staffEngland must seize chance to achieve special series win4dGeorge Dobell at PallekeleMeet the scouting guru at the heart of England's selection revolution3dJon CulleyWho made this schedule? I'm loving it4dAB de Villiers'Excited' de Villiers to captain Tshwane Spartans in MSL4dLiam BrickhillShahid Afridi released by Karachi Kings ahead of PSL player draft4dUmar FarooqBabar Azam, Asad Shafiq settle as Pakistan inch towards leadFacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerEmail3:00 AM ETThe Report by Danyal RasoolFacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerPinterestEmailprint

Lunch Pakistan 144 for 4 (Shafiq 25*, Babar 24*, Boult 2-29) trail New Zealand 153 by nine runs

Azhar Ali slices one towards point AFP

Pakistan came out of Saturday's first session in an awfully better situation than the run of play might have suggested. New Zealand's bowlers were in charge over large periods of the session, but a mix of misfortune, missed chances, and questionable decisions meant Pakistan lost no more than two wickets, and, at 144 for 4, were just nine runs behind New Zealand's first-innings total. Haris Sohail and Azhar Ali's 64-run partnership broke the back of the New Zealand total, and when both fell within five balls of each other, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam took up the mantle to guarantee Pakistan would not crumble the same way the visitors had yesterday.

Kane Williamson opted to open with Colin de Grandhomme and Ajaz Patel. Why he decided not to begin with his best bowler, Trent Boult, wasn't clear, and the moment the left-arm fast bowler came on, it began to look like a mistake. Just the second ball of his spell, he seamed one away from Azhar Ali that very nearly caught the edge, and two balls later, a simple chance was grassed by Jeet Raval at short midwicket.

Throughout his spell, Boult was unplayable, mesmeric, even, and on a pitch where it looks especially hard to get settled, not having him kick off the day's proceedings didn't appear to be the best bit of captaincy on Williamson's part. In the six overs before Boult was brought on, Pakistan scored 28 without loss. In the nine overs that followed, they managed just six runs and lost two wickets.

It could have been several more, the way Boult kept moving the ball outside off stump, long after the ball had ostensibly grown too old to swing. However, it was Ish Sodhi - also introduced somewhat late and clearly the better spinner on the day - who got the first wicket. It wasn't the best ball, a low full-toss that Haris scooped up to short midwicket. New Zealand deserved their luck, and five balls later, Boult got the wicket he had deserved.

Azhar Ali had been at the crease for 95 balls, scoring only 22 and not looking nearly like getting back to form. It was a corker of a delivery that sent Azhar packing, another ball that seamed and swerved outside off stump, but it also required excellent reflexes from BJ Watling to dive sharply to his right and complete a one-handed grab in front of first slip.

This is where New Zealand and Pakistan diverged. Where the tourists had fallen apart after their two settled batsmen were dismissed, Babar and Asad hung in, developing a partnership of their own and dispelling any thoughts of Pakistan being bowled out around the 153 New Zealand had managed. With Boult needing a rest, the pair saw out the initial barrage and then began to chip away at the bowlers, and with Wagner and Patel unable to exert the same pressure as Boult or Sodhi had, batting became easier; it was as if the pitch had flattened out again. The fifty partnership was brought up before lunch, and, despite a session that New Zealand commanded for large parts, Pakistan went to the break in a more dominant position.

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