Belligerent McCullum century flattens Pakistan
New Zealand 249 for 1 (McCullum 153*, Williamson 76*) trail Pakistan 351 (Hafeez 197, Craig 7-94) by 102 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The morning in Sharjah had been sombre. Pakistan and New Zealand observed a minute's silence before the start of the day's play and put their bats out as a tribute to Phillip Hughes. With no chirping from the fielders, no celebrations on the fall of wickets, and muted reactions from batsmen on being dismissed, the eerie quiet had also descended to the middle.
There wasn't much difference in the air after lunch; Pakistani fielders were similarly quiet when New Zealand came into bat and the celebrations restrained. But a typically belligerent century from Brendon McCullum, the fastest by a New Zealand batsman, broke the monotony of a flat day and helped wipe off 249 runs from Pakistan's lead in 45 overs after Mark Craig's career-best 7 for 94 had restricted the home team to 351.
Nothing was unnatural about his couple of boundaries in the first six overs; one a flick through square leg, the other a lightning slap in front of point. Or the ones that followed in the seventh over, bowled by Zulfiqar Babar. First ball, a long-hop, was pulled powerfully over the boundary at midwicket, the second cut through point, and the fourth, and the most outrageous, a cover drive for six.
As Mohammad Talha and Rahat Ali started pounding the ball halfway, something that had been missing in the morning, McCullum became even more adventurous. A short one from Talha ended in the stands at deep square leg, then one from Rahat was cut over point for six more. He reached his half-century of just 30 deliveries - the second-fastest by a New Zealand batsman - with consecutive boundaries in the 13th over.
Kane Williamson found his higher gear too. He opened with a stylish drive through cover off Babar, then collected a six two overs later off the same bowler. Although McCullum's strokeplay was at times freakish, it was Williamson who played the shot of the day - a back-foot on-drive to a legspinning delivery from Yasir Shah.
He carried on scoring at almost run-a-ball, but McCullum's blistering pace at the other end meant he went completely unnoticed during the partnership. The New Zealand captain was on 82 at the start of the penultimate over before tea, but smashed four boundaries off the Talha over to move to 98 before reaching his 10th Test century - in 78 deliveries - off the last ball of the session. There was no overt expression of joy, just an embrace from Williamson and off the two went back to the dressing room.
There was no immediate let-off for Pakistan. McCullum smashed a six each in three of the four overs after tea, taking his tally of sixes to eight in the innings, the most by any batsman in an innings against Pakistan. New Zealand crossed 200 in the 30th over. As the shadows engulfed the stadium, McCullum slowed down a little realising New Zealand had a strong chance to extend the advantage come day three. The run rate dropped below six in the 38th over, after a gap of 20 overs.
The intensity in the second session had been in contrast to the morning session. Pakistan had resumed on 281 for 3 after a day's break, but lost their last seven wickets for 66 runs to relinquish their position of strength. Mohammad Hafeez, who was unbeaten on 178 overnight, fell three short of what would have been his maiden double-century and was the chief contributor to the total as the rest crumbled.
Misbah-ul-Haq failed to add to his score from the first day, edging Tim Southee to the wicketkeeper in the fourth over of the day. The reactions summed up the mood; BJ Watling dived to his right to take a good low catch, but didn't react. Southee showed no emotion and neither did anyone else on the field. Later, the fielders quietly converged towards Hafeez and patted his back after the batsman had pulled a long-hop from Ish Sodhi to deep square leg; it was Hafeez's best Test score.
Asad Shafiq attempted to inject some energy by skipping down the track to Vettori for a boundary early in the day, but he too fell to a soft dismissal soon after Hafeez. That wicket opened up the gates as one by one, Craig sent the batsmen back. There was only a half-hearted appeal as Sarfraz edged one to the wicketkeeper. The last four wickets could just add 15 runs as Pakistan were bowled out for much less than what they would have wanted.
Then Pakistan's bowlers failed to curtail McCullum. Babar and Yasir leaked 130 runs in 20 overs between them while Talha was taken for 62 off seven. At the end of the day and after taking the bowlers apart during an unbeaten 198-run stand with Williamson, McCullum did find a moment to smile.
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo