Sharjah: Opener Mohammad Hafeez struck a dominating century to lift Pakistan to 281-3 in the third and final Test against New Zealand in Sharjah on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old anchored Pakistan's innings with an unbeaten 178 -- his seventh Test hundred and second in the series -- as Pakistan dominated the day after winning a crucial toss and deciding to bat on a flat, grass-less Sharjah stadium pitch.
Pakistani batsman Mohammad Hafeez (R) shakes hands with teammate Younis Khan as he celebrates scoring a century during the first day of the third and final Test match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the Sharjah cricket stadium in Sharjah on Wednesday. Pic/AFP
Hafeez added an invaluable 121 for the fourth wicket with skipper Misbah-ul Haq who was not out on a chancy 38 and 87 for the second wicket with Azhar Ali (39). It was an aggressive knock during which Hafeez drove and pulled with authority, clobbering 23 boundaries and three sixes.
Misbah, batting in his usual cautious style, benefitted from a dropped catch on 20 when wicket-keepe BJ Watling failed to hold an edge off leg-sppiner Ish Sodhi. New Zealand's three-spinner attack failed to get any spin with Mark Craig getting 2-67 and recalled Daniel Vettori 1-28.
New Zealand, seeking to level the three-match series after losing the first in Abu Dhabi by 248 runs and drawing the second in Dubai, hit back in the second session by dismissing Ali and in-form Younis Khan for five. Pakistan were comfortably placed at 82-1 at lunch but Ali became off-spinner Craig's second wicket, caught in the slip off a loose shot. Ali said Hafeez was focused even before the Test.
"He came back from England a day before the Test," said Ali of Hafeez who had a bio-mechanical analysis of his bowling action reported during the first Test. "That did not deter him and he played a brilliant knock. "We won the toss but needed to score big and we are on course for that, a total of 500 or above would help us dictate terms." Younis, who hit three hundreds in Pakistan's 2-0 rout of Australia last month and one more in the first Test of this series, was trapped leg-before by left-armer Vettori.
Vettori, recalled in place of Jimmy Neehsam, is playing his 112th match for New Zealand, becoming his country's most capped player beating Stephen Fleming who played 111. Vettori also played one Test for an ICC World XI in 2005. He was accorded a guard of honour by New Zealand players as he entered the field.
Hafeez reached his hundred with a couple of boundaries and a single, reaching the mark in 130 balls aided with 14 boundaries and two sixes. In the first session, Pakistan had a confident start of 44 before Craig bowled Shan Masood for 12. Pakistan made two changes from the Dubai Test line-up, dropping out-of-form opener Taufeeq Umar and Ehsan Adil, who suffered a side-muscle strain.
They brought in Hafeez and paceman Mohammad Talha. New Zealand brought Vettori, playing his first Test for 28 months, replacing Jimmy Neesham. Pakistan lead the three-match series 1-0, after winning the first Test in Abu Dhabi and drawing the second in Dubai.