Vettori dazzles with ton on batsmen's day
Pakistan 134 for 2 (Taufeeq 70, Azhar 62*) trail New Zealand 356 (Vettori 110, Taylor 78, Young 57, Gul 4-87) by 222 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Daniel Vettori embellished his record against his favourite opponent with a century that was exemplary for the smoothness of its gear-shifts and guided New Zealand from their dodgy overnight position to a score of 356. New Zealand's progress centred around the 138-run stand between Vettori and Reece Young, who made his maiden half-century, as Pakistan's attack played into the home side's hands with an unimaginative approach during the morning session. Their batsmen, however, showed more enterprise, with Taufeeq Umar and Azhar Ali making half-centuries to lead a strong response. Taufeeq's late exit left Pakistan at 134 for 2, and the game evenly balanced going into the third day.
New Zealand's seamers came out with purpose after Vettori's heroics, and plugged away on a length outside off despite not getting much help from the wicket. Bowling into the wind, Tim Southee got one to nip away from Mohammad Hafeez, who hit his pad with the bat as he shaped to drive. Umpire Rod Tucker upheld the appeal, triggering another round of debate around the inconsistency in the implementation of the UDRS.
Having found his bearings in the session leading up to tea, Taufeeq checked in with two delectable shots in Southee's first over of the final session, driving square when he was offered width, and straight when he wasn't. When the seamers angled into his pads, he made them pay almost every time, while also leaving well throughout his innings, both on line and length.
Azhar was more subdued and survived a couple of outside edges, the second of which carried low to a late-reacting Ross Taylor, standing wide at first slip. Despite the odd stutter, Azhar showed glimpses of the determination that marked him out in the tours of England and South Africa. The highlight of his effort was a back-foot square drive off Southee, so delicate that it wasn't noticed by an unfortunate pigeon in the deep-point area that had its feathers ruffled.
With the fast bowlers struggling for impact, New Zealand turned to their captain for inspiration once again, and he nearly intervened in his first over, the 26th of the innings. Young appealed without conviction after juggling a thin inside edge from Taufeeq, which no one else seemed to have noticed. Unperturbed by the reversal, Vettori settled into a searching spell, getting the ball to misbehave occasionally from the rough outside Taufeeq's off stump. Without the aid of the bowlers' foot marks, he set up a fascinating tussle with Azhar, testing him with flight and drift, and it was down to the batsman's fortune that he managed to survive Vettori's best.
When Vettori threatened to tie him up with his variations, Azhar stepped out to launch him inside-out over long-off for his first six in Test cricket. The respite was temporary, and Vettori nearly accounted for him twice, beating him through the air with subtle variations in flight, inducing a couple of miscues that landed safely. Taufeeq was easily the more assured of the two, but succumbed with stumps in sight, jabbing Vettori into the slips for 70. His dismissal reignited New Zealand's hopes, which had flagged a touch after a dominant morning.
Pakistan's early woes were exemplified by Gul, who showed little of the craft and presence of mind he had displayed on the first day. Then, he had used the wind behind him to hustle the batsmen, while getting the ball to deviate disconcertingly from a length. Today, his average length was at least a foot shorter, and he wasted the new ball with a slew of bouncers and wide deliveries. Vettori and Young were happy to stay back in the crease and pick gaps in the field when they were forced to play. With Wahab Riaz indisposed, Abdur Rehman took over duties at the Scoreboard End and got several deliveries to drift prodigiously into Vettori, but did not have enough spin to work with.
Vettori mastered the conditions and the one-dimensional line of attack, to set himself up for a rich harvest. He steered one of Gul's many harmless, short deliveries for four through the off side, and off the next ball, brought up his first half-century in nearly 10 months, shuffling across to off stump and turning round the corner. When Gul made way for Tanvir at the Vance End, Vettori welcomed him with a crisp on-drive for four more.
At the other end, Young showed enough poise to promise a long stint in the national side. He survived his only error in the first hour, top-edging a pull off a Tanvir bouncer behind the wicketkeeper's head, and brought up his fifty with a thick edge through gully for four more. His dismissal, with lunch round the corner, gave Pakistan an opening, but Vettori was not done with them yet. He seamlessly shifted from the initial brief of crease occupation and produced a raft of innovative strokes to swell New Zealand's score.
Tanvir followed up the ball that dismissed Young with a sharp bouncer that rattled Southee's helmet, and there were a couple more bumpers from Gul after lunch. Southee did not last long, falling to a fuller one, but Vettori's innovation earned New Zealand 34 from their last two wickets. He moved across to off stump to nudge Gul's lifters to the leg side, trotted out of the crease to launch Rehman straight for six, and later reverse-swept him against the spin. Vettori had reached 96 when Gul snaked an incutter through Brent Arnel's defences. Martin survived four deliveries in fortuitous fashion, working the home crowd into a frenzy of applause, and they soon repeated the routine for Vettori's well-deserved ton. His batting put New Zealand on top in the morning, and his bowling refused to allow Pakistan to dictate terms thereafter.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo