Abu Dhabi: Opener Ahmed Shehzad hit a brilliant hundred to steer Pakistan to 269-1 at close on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
NZ's Ross Taylor congratulates Pakistan's Ahmed Shahzad (right) on scoring a century yesterday
Shehzad was 126 not out for his third Test hundred -- all made this year -- but fellow opener Mohammad Hafeez missed his by four runs as New Zealand's pace-cum spin attack toiled hard on an unresponsive pitch at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Stadium. Azhar Ali was unbeaten on 46, having added 91 for the unbroken second wicket stand with Shehzad.
It was another batting domination by Pakistan after Brendon McCullum called wrongly at the toss and his counterpart Misbah-ul Haq took no time in opting to bat, as he did in the 356-run mauling of Australia in the second Test at the same venue last week.
Shehzad ensured he did not miss the three-figure mark, taking a single off seamer Jimmy Neesham to reach his hundred off 221 balls with 12 boundaries. In all Shehzad hit 14 boundaries during his 290-ball stay and even a second new ball after 80 overs did not waver his concentration.
Hafeez and Shehzad put on Pakistan's best stand of 178 against New Zealand in all Tests, beating the 172-run partnership between Ramiz Raja and Shoaib Mohammad in the Karachi Test in 1990. Shehzad hit five boundaries off leg-spinner Ish Sodhi in the second session while Hafeez entered his nineties with three fours.
"I have worked hard on my batting," said 22-year-old Shehzad. "I love to prove myself in Test cricket which is the real test of a player's skill and I am happy that I have done that." Ali, who scored twin hundreds against Australia last week, has so far hit three boundaries in his patient knock.
Hafeez though failed to reach his sixth hundred when he gave a return catch to Corey Anderson. He hit ten boundaries during his 212-minute stay at the crease. New Zealand were unlucky in the first session as they missed two good chances.
Off-spinner Mark Craig almost succeeded but wicket-keeper B.J. Watling missed a stumping chance with Shehzad yards out of his crease after his forward push failed to connect. He was on 16 at the time. Hafeez, on 35, was also lucky to survive when his tentative push off Sodhi was caught by Ross Taylor in slip -- but after one bounce.
Watling also dropped Azhar on 31 off a luckless Craig who failed to get a wicket in his 17 overs. Anderson has figures of 1-31. Ross Taylor admitted it was hard toil for bowlers. "We expected the pitch to be flat," said Taylor. "We toiled hard but Hafeez and Shehzad batted patiently and comfortably and its going to be another tough day for us tomorrow but we will try to get wickets."
Pakistan kept the same side which won the second Test against Australia for their 2-0 win last week while New Zealand entered the Test with two seamers and as many spinners. The remaining Tests will be played in Dubai (November 17-21) and Sharjah (November 26-30).