Hameed shines in the gloom
Close Pakistan 227 for 4 (Hameed 80) trail New Zealand 563 by 336 runs
John Bracewell, the New Zealand coach, looks on in frustration as most of the third day was rained out
Pakistan were left in no-man's land when bad light and rain forced an early end on the third day of their first Test against New Zealand at Hamilton. They were still far enough away from the follow-on mark to get into trouble, but New Zealand may not have enough time to force victory.
The highlight of the day was a fine 80 from Yasir Hameed, a consistent thorn in New Zealand's side in the recent one-day series back in Pakistan. But bad light, and light showers, conspired to keep the players off the field for large parts of a day in which the Westpac Park floodlights stayed on for most of the time. Only 38 overs were possible in total.
The lack of play was frustrating for all concerned. By the watery close Pakistan were still 137 runs from the safety of the follow-on with six wickets in hand, while New Zealand, who failed to put as much pressure as they would have wanted on the batsmen, know that one more wicket will get them in among a longish tail.
Pakistan scored 109 runs in the time available, never batting with the freedom that the centurymakers Stephen Fleming and Daniel Vettori had enjoyed, although with the number of loose balls sent down their scoring rate was still respectable. New Zealand did pick up two wickets, those of Hameed and Yousuf Youhana.
Hameed demonstrated just why he has had such a fine start to Test cricket. He came into this game with a Test average of 55.87, and enhanced that with his 80. It seemed inevitable that he was going to score his third century in only his sixth Test, but - having looked unflustered, despite attempts to contain him with a leg trap early in the morning session - he lost his momentum after lunch and was out soon afterwards, when a slower ball from Daryl Tuffey trapped him leg-before.
That leg trap almost accounted for Hameed early on, after which he took some advice from Youhana and took a single to reach the safety of the other end. instead it was Youhana who got out, chasing a wider ball from Tuffey and offering a low chance which Lou Vincent accepted in the slips (134 for 3).
Hameed's steady approach was crucial, because Inzamam-ul-Haq was very tentative during the early stages of his innings. He batted as if he was expecting some of the demons that he found in this pitch when Pakistan were last in town in 2001. But there were none this time, and Inzamam was delighted to be offered some short-pitched balls which allowed him to get onto the back foot and punch the ball through the arc from gully to extra cover.
When lunch was taken, five minutes early, Pakistan were 205 for 3. When play resumed, Tuffey soon trapped Hameed in front (209 for 4). Scott Styris came into the attack, and his controlled medium-pace tied the batsmen down more and allowed Fleming to apply pressure in a way that had not been possible during the morning session.
Daniel Vettori found some spin, although he didn't manage a wicket in his 12 overs, which cost 29. Tuffey continued the growth in stature that he has enjoyed this summer, and had 3 for 60 from 18 overs by the close. Interestingly, after all the no-ball problems the Pakistanis suffered - especially Mohammad Sami, who was called 15 times in New Zealand's long innings - the New Zealanders have been similarly afflicted. They have bowled 12 so far, with even Vettori contributing three. There's still some way to go to match Pakistan's overlal total of 33, though.
Play on the fourth day will start 45 minutes early in a bid to make up lost time (1015 local time on Monday morning, 2115GMT on Sunday night).