- Publish Date
- Saturday, 8 December 2018, 11:54AM
For years, the Black Caps' test cricket road trips usually ended poorly, but this time, they were on the road to riches.
A superb 123-run triumph over Pakistan gave the Black Caps a 2-1 series win – their first away test series victory against Pakistan since the summer of 69.
As Bryan Adams crooned, nothing can last forever, and the victory marked just the Black Caps' 15th away test series win – the first in Asia since 1984, and just their second against a major nation since 1986.
In fact, this century, the Black Caps had only claimed away test series victories over Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, and the West Indies, and considering that Pakistan had thrashed Australia in their previous test series, victory should indeed be recognised as a stellar accomplishment.
In their first test series under coach Gary Stead, the Black Caps bounced back from a horror second test defeat – and from a dire position midway in the third – to truly trounce Pakistan on the final day, bowling them out for 156 in the fourth innings to claim victory.
Black Caps captain Kane Williamson was elated with the result.
"A fantastic performance to be a part of, we know how formidable Pakistan are, certainly in their home conditions they're a very difficult side to beat. To bounce back and win a decider is pretty special.
"It was a really great fighting effort, and one we'll remember for a long time."
The path to glory started with a sensational partnership between Williamson and Henry Nicholls, who rescued the hosts from what was looking like a hefty defeat.
Joining forces at 60-4, still trailing Pakistan by 14 runs, the pair added 212 — the highest fifth-wicket partnership for the Black Caps against Pakistan. When Williamson departed on the first ball of the final day, for 139, Nicholls pushed on, playing aggressively as he brought up his third test century.
He ended unbeaten on 126, with the big hitting of Colin de Grandhomme (26 from 19) and Tim Southee (15 not out from 10) seeing 81 runs added in just nine overs, before the Black Caps declared at 353-7, setting Pakistan 280 to win in 79 overs.
It was a smart declaration – giving Pakistan enough temptation to chase for the victory, but some brilliant bowling made sure they never got close.
Southee struck first, with a beautiful delivery that straightened and beat the outside edge of Mohammad Hafeez. In his last test innings, Hafeez was bowled for eight, and a similarly excellent ball got rid of Azhar Ali soon after.
Pakistan's star batsman this series, Ali was done in by a de Grandhomme delivery which caught him on the back foot, and he edged a fend through to BJ Watling behind the stumps.
After that, it was the spinners' time to shine. Will Somerville continued a standout debut by taking two wickets in two balls, removing Haris Sohail – caught at slip – and Asad Shafiq – gloving a ball down the legside to Watling.
Ajaz Patel then got in on the fun, ending the resistance of Imam ul-Haq with a classic off-spinners wicket, getting ul-Haq to push forward, catching the inside edge, and offering a simple catch to Nicholls at short leg.
Reduced to 55-5 at lunch, Pakistan only had one hope left – a partnership between their last recognised batsmen, Babar Azam and Sarfraz Ahmed.
Williamson persisted with his spin combination. Patel created the most drift and turn of all the spinners in the test, and worked well in tandem with Somerville, who offered up different speeds, and significant bounce.
It was just Patel's third test, and Somerville's debut, but they performed well, and Williamson had praise for the duo after the match.
"For those guys to come over here and show their experience and perform the way they did was massive for us getting across the line."
After 15 consecutive overs of spin, Somerville broke through, firing through a quicker delivery – too quick for Sarfraz, who was caught on the back foot and couldn't chop down in time to avoid being bowled.
That exposed Pakistan's weak tail, and while Azam fought hard for a 50, he gave his way wicket away, slogging at Patel, with Southee taking an excellent catch.
Patel and Southee ended with three wickets, as did Somerville, as the trio easily accounted for the tailenders.
In the end, fittingly it was Williamson who took the final catch as the Black Caps claimed a dominant test victory, and a famous series triumph.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.
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