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Fawad-Rizwan defiance in vain as Pakistan lost first test

New Zealand bowlers overcame Fawad Alam’s career-defining century to help their team register a tense 101-run victory over Pakistan in the first Test in Mount Maunganui on Wednesday.

Pakistan were dismissed for 271, chasing a victory target of 372, with 4.3 overs remaining in the Test at Bay Oval. At the same time, New Zealand overtook Australia to claim the No. 1 world ranking in Tests for the first time in its history.

Fawad Alam showed his mettle and smashed a century after a gap of 11 years to put Pakistan on course to save the Test match at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui on Wednesday.

New Zealand were on the verge of a huge win at the start of the final day but a 165-run partnership between Fawad Alam and Mohammad Rizwan helped Pakistan take the game to the last hour of the play. The fifth-wicket partnership between Alam and Mohammad Rizwan felt like it, coming totally against the run of play and taking the home side by surprise.

But New Zealand found a way to burst through the 165-run stand, like they so often do at home and sealed an important victory by 101 runs in the last hour of play. They are now No. 1 in Test rankings for the first time in history and booked crucial points in a bid to be in the top-two of the World Test Championship.

It was Kyle Jamieson who provided the crucial breakthrough with a delivery that stayed low to Mohammad Rizwan. And then came the famous Neil Wagner short ball, just as effective when bowled with a fractured toe, as Alam would find out. All he could do was top-edge it to the wicketkeeper.

It wasn’t too difficult for New Zealand, especially after Wagner had scratched away Faheem Ashraf’s edge with a length delivery that straightened slightly. Or so they thought. The final pair of Shaheen Afridi and Mohammed Abbas batted out 8.1 overs before a brilliant return catch by Mitchell Santner saw the back of Naseem Shah and end of Pakistan’s innings.

Earlier, in an encouraging start to the day, Pakistan lost only one wicket in the first session, adding 62 runs across 27 overs to take the fight back to New Zealand. The day, though, had started very differently for Pakistan. Azhar Ali fell in Tim Southee’s first over of the day, driving at and edging a ball that could have been left alone, and sparking fears of a collapse. But that’s not what happened as both Rizwan and Fawad took minimum risks from thereon, survived Wagner’s bouncer-yorker attack and took time out of the match.

The afternoon was even more assuring. Pakistan didn’t lose a wicket all through the second session, the batting duo of Alam and Rizwan adding 78 runs to put more pressure on New Zealand. The most action in fact happened 10 minutes out from the Tea break, when Kyle Jamieson nearly had Mohammad Rizwan caught off a wide yorker and Tim Southee bowled a couple of unplayable deliveries. That it all came only with the second new ball summed up the state of the game, and to some extent the pitch.

Alam chose his moments wisely, attacking Mitchell Santer early on and then picking quick runs against the new ball later. Rizwan, batting on his fourth consecutive fifty, was an able partner at the other end. The closest New Zealand came to picking a wicket was with a wide yorker from Jamieson that Rizwan nearly edged to the slip cordon. It took multiple replays from the third umpire to determine that it was in fact a bump ball.

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