New Zealand 90 (Raval 31, Williamson 28, Yasir 8-41) and (f/o) 131 for 2 (Taylor 49*, Latham 44*, Yasir 2-65) trail Pakistan 418 for 5 dec (Sohail 147, Babar 127*, Azhar 81, de Grandhomme 2-41) by 197 runs
Yasir Shah's legspin defined the third day of the Dubai Test against New Zealand in a manner that would have made his childhood hero Shane Warne beam with pride. The Pakistan spinner became the first bowler since Anil Kumble, in 1999, to take ten wickets in a day, eight of them coming in a remarkable passage of play that sent New Zealand spiralling from 50 for no loss to 90 all out. New Zealand found respite in the follow-on through an unbroken 65-run third-wicket partnership between Ross Taylor and Tom Latham. But all that did was make sure they could go into the fourth day without the match already being a lost cause.
The harbinger of the remarkable day would be an over of pure sorcery from Yasir, which completely changed the tide of the match from a gritty, even contest to one that New Zealand are now resigned to battle for their lives in. He lay waste to a dogged opening partnership with a flurry of wickets that tore through New Zealand's middle order. The 50-run partnership between Raval and Latham had ended after Raval clumsily dragged the ball back onto the stumps off Yasir, but the real magic was yet to happen. In the penultimate over before lunch, the legspinner ripped through Latham, Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls to leave New Zealand tottering at 63 for 4 at the break.
It began with the first ball of the over, when he drew Latham into a prod and Imam-ul-Haq scooped up a catch at short leg. That opened up the opportunity to toy with the new batsmen; Taylor's second delivery was a ball that evoked memories of Shane Warne to Mike Gatting. It pitched around middle and leg before spinning past the dead bat Taylor was offering to it to clatter into off stump. Nicholls' second delivery, too, was the stuff of nightmares, screaming through the gap between bat and pad to smash into middle stump.
After lunch, Yasir sliced through the New Zealand innings like a hot knife through butter, finishing with the third-best figures in Pakistan's history. New Zealand could add just 27 runs to their lunch tally of 63 for 4, with Yasir responsible for four more wickets. He finished with 8 for 41, giving Pakistan a monumental 328-run lead, and made Pakistan's first-innings declaration look infinitely more prescient than it had yesterday.
Kane Williamson had played a lone, forlorn hand at the other end, seemingly batting on a different pitch, but could do little about the carnage unfolding around him as his side lost 10 wickets for 40 runs to be bowled out for 90. With BJ Watling and the skipper himself being the last specialist batsmen at the crease as the second session commenced, how that partnership went was to be pivotal to New Zealand's hopes in the Test. Four balls after lunch, Watling was run out after a devastating mix-up with his captain, and even luck went Yasir's way as the ball he fumbled with went on to hit the stumps anyway.
After Hasan Ali took care of Colin de Grandhomme in identical fashion to his first-innings lbw in Abu Dhabi, Yasir was in complete charge of the tail. Williamson tried to get the score to three-figures whenever he had the strike, but with no other player able to cope with Yasir's heat, he was destined to remain a helpless onlooker as Pakistan took a monstrous lead, and instructed New Zealand to follow on.
Their second attempt thus far has been a more respectable, less dramatic affair, characterised by the resolute steel with which Taylor and Latham saw through the day after two relatively early wickets. Yasir remained at his mesmerising best for most of the session, but when he tailed off at the end, Taylor was there to punish him, sure to never let a short ball go waste. Two consecutive deliveries in the day's last half hour went for four and six, and it was the only time all day when Yasir looked slightly tired.
Earlier in the innings, there were fears that New Zealand could be run through a second time, particularly when Jeet Raval and Williamson became the ninth and tenth wickets for Yasir. The ball to finally remove the New Zealand captain, who, until then, had been a picture of calm across both innings, was another highlight on a day, the tales of which Yasir is destined to regale to his grandchildren decades from now. He drew Williamson into a forward defensive shot, but even a batsman of his quality could not take into account just the amount of spin Yasir had imparted, and sent an outside edge to the keeper.
It was a day that began with rain and ended with darkness. That's fitting enough for New Zealand, who will remember today by those gloomy images anyway. But the men a few paces away in the other dressing room would put a completely different spin on how events unfolded. It is, after all, the spin of one in particular that puts the hosts on the precipice of a resounding, series-leveling victory, and no dark clouds will deny them the gratification.