Fleming defies resurgent Pakistan
Close New Zealand 295 for 6 (Fleming 125*, Shabbir 3-51) v Pakistan
Stephen Fleming celebrates his sixth Test century
Pakistan stormed back into the first Test at Hamilton today on the back of some indisciplined batting by the New Zealand middle order and some dogged bowling by Danish Kaneria and Shabbir Ahmed. Stephen Fleming stood resolutely in their way, though, and was unbeaten on 125 as New Zealand ended the first day on 295 for 6.
The first two sessions of the day belonged to New Zealand. At lunch, after being asked to bat first, they were 98 for 1. At tea they were 192 for 2. Pakistan were staring down the barrel of a formidable first-innings target to get back into the game, and they pulled it back splendidly. Fleming demonstrated the maturity that comes from playing 77 Test matches to resist them, and his work was far from done at close of play.
Fleming batted in the manner he has long been capable of achieving, posting his century off 195 balls. It was a timely and valuable display that deserved better support from the middle order. But New Zealand were guilty of an over-zealous desire to flog the tiring Pakistan bowlers in the post-tea session, and they paid the price. It was a faulty approach and undid the preparatory work done by Mark Richardson in a 101-run stand with Fleming, and Scott Styris during a third-wicket 100-run stand.
Danish Kaneria, the legspinner, winkled away through 16 overs, bowling the occasionally troubling wrong 'un, and picking up two wickets in identical fashion at a cost of 63 runs. His victims were Styris (33) and Craig McMillan (22), each of whom edged to Taufeeq Umar at first slip after being surprised by the bite and bounce off the pitch. Suddenly, from the comfort of 217 for 2, New Zealand slumped to 249 for 4 - and then 266 for 5.
Mark Richardson played a gutsy innings in the morning, but couldn't convert his start
The runs were coming quickly, though. McMillan danced down the pitch to Kaneria and hit him for two soaring sixes, the second of which cleared the grandstand at the northern end of the ground. But off the next ball, he was gone.
Chris Cairns started tentatively, batting like a man who had not played Test cricket for 21 months, which he hadn't. He hit one boundary in his 11 before Shabbir completed a double by having Cairns edge behind. Then Jacob Oram was bowled around his legs and left staring down the pitch wondering what had happened.
Shabbir was the pick of the Pakistan pace attack, a unit depleted by the withdrawal of Shoaib Akhtar, who failed a fitness test on his injured hamstring before the game. Shabbir kept a tighter line than Mohammad Sami and Umar Gul and ended with 3 for 51. Sami had a horror day while trying to find his rhythm. He conceded 15 no-balls and ended the day with his 19 overs having cost 84 runs.