Misbah, Younis give Pakistan slender lead
New Zealand 356 (Vettori 110, Taylor 78, Gul 4-87) and 9 for 0 trail Pakistan 376 (Misbah 99, Younis 73, Martin 4-91, Vettori 4-100) by 11 runs
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Misbah-ul-Haq quelled a threatening spell of reverse swing early on the third morning, before dictating terms against New Zealand's seamers, to drive Pakistan to a 20-run lead as the wind subsided for the first time at the Basin Reserve. Pakistan's progress was based on Misbah's 142-run stand with Younis Khan, during which New Zealand's attack seemed to have run out of ideas. Younis' exit for 73 - the seventh umpiring error in the match, without counting missed no-balls - sparked a resurgence from the home side. After tea, they attacked with Daniel Vettori's turn and Chris Martin's bounce to skittle out Pakistan's lower half for the addition of just 52, including Misbah on 99. New Zealand's openers played out the last five overs of the day without damage to leave the game even at stumps.
Before their inspired burst in the final session, New Zealand were surprisingly subdued through the day, barring a lively opening burst from Martin. He began with a swerving bouncer that started well outside off before darting in viciously towards Azhar Ali who had to weave away and drop his wrists. Martin followed that up with a series of reverse-swingers before outwitting Azhar with another sharp lifter that was fended into the slips. Younis and Misbah also began edgily against the movement before easing into business with a series of sparkling drives as the sun came out and Martin began to lose his sting.
The ball, deemed to be out of shape, was replaced at the stroke of the first hour and reverse swing immediately became conspicuous by its absence. With the pitch not taking much turn, Misbah handled Vettori's drift by lunging forward instead of across and defending from inside the line. New Zealand's main variations had been nullified, and thereafter they were asking to be dominated.
Younis cashed in against a flagging attack, punching a short delivery from Tim Southee square and driving one that was too straight through wide long-on for boundaries. Misbah attacked his opposite number in the lead-up to lunch, pulling out a slog sweep and a lofted on-drive as Pakistan moved past 200.
Soon after the break, Brent Arnel opened with the second new ball, running in for a friendly over that underlined New Zealand's lack of intent: it began with a wayward loosener outside off, and included a misdirected bouncer down the leg side. In his second over, Misbah guided Arnel twice through the cordon for boundaries. Martin replaced Arnel and got his inswingers going, but the horse had bolted by then. Younis punched Martin twice down the ground, the first bringing up his half-century and the second, the 100-run stand.
Southee put in a solid effort from the other end, and got the odd legcutter to nip away from the right-handers. Despite being beaten on a couple of occasions, Misbah had the presence of mind to play with soft hands, and his obduracy frustrated Southee who got into a verbal duel with him. Misbah responded with two calmly stroked boundaries through the covers to bring up his fifth successive half-century, and his fifth in six innings since taking over as captain.
Vettori was running out of ideas, and brought James Franklin on, seemingly with the intention of creating a rough to work with. Franklin promptly got a warning for running on the pitch, but Vettori began to pose some riddles from the other end. He eventually got past Younis, thanks to drift and a poor call from umpire Rod Tucker, caught close-in on the leg side straight off the pad.
Younis' exit prompted Vettori to finally go on the attack, and he looped them into the rough with extra fielders crouching close in. Asad Shafiq edged his fifth ball as it ripped away from middle and leg, taking the outside edge on its way into the slips. Vettori also had Adnan Akmal in strife with well-disguised arm-balls before getting him to top-edge a sweep.
Martin stepped up to support his captain, and bullied Abdur Rehman into submission with bounce, with Pakistan still 22 behind. While Umar Gul biffed Pakistan into the lead with a series of middled pulls and slog-sweeps, Misbah chugged along towards a hundred that seemed almost inevitable.
He negated Martin's bounce by staying in the crease, and capitalised when there was width to pick up boundaries through the off side. With Misbah a run away from his third Test ton, Martin landed a couple of balls well outside off before cleverly slanting one back in, to rap him on the move as he shuffled across with an eye on the leg side. The innings ended soon after, Vettori finishing a wicket shy of becoming only the second New Zealander to make a century and pick a five-for in the same match. Both captains had had a say in setting up the game for a virtual second-innings shoot-out with two days left.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo