New Zealand fast bowler Tim Southee said he had the aid of the wind at Seddon Park, as well as the support of his seam-bowling compatriots, as he claimed 6 for 80 in the first innings - his best-ever figures at home. Southee's performance helped the hosts dismiss Pakistan for 216 and take a lead of 55 on the third day in Hamilton.
Southee is familiar with Seddon Park, which is the home ground for his Northern Districts domestic team for whom he had taken a first-class five-wicket haul at the venue in early November. The wind that blows in from the North-West has also been a near-constant presence in the first three days of the Test. It helped Southee take balls away from right-hand batsmen, particularly early in Pakistan's innings.
"I play a lot here, and it's always nice because it's one of the few grounds in the world where the wind actually assists a right-arm outswing bowler," Southee said. "It was nice to pick up wickets, but it's just good to contribute to the bowling performance. Bowling second on that pitch and taking a 55-run lead into the second innings just shows how well we did as a bowling group. Matt Henry didn't get a wicket but I think he bowled exceptionally well throughout - most of it was into the wind. He did a great job and deserves a lot more credit than his figures show."
Southee had been especially effective with the new ball, removing openers Sami Aslam and Azhar Ali in the same over, before having Younis Khan caught behind to leave Pakistan 12 for 3. The away-swingers that took Azhar and Younis' edges had been preceded by balls that seamed towards the batsmen. It is a ploy Southee has often used before.
"Each bowler has different strengths, and those are things that have worked for me in the past," he said. "The new ball period was crucial for us. We knew if we took wickets with the new ball it put pressure back on them. You have plans for certain batsmen, and it's nice when they do come off."
Southee bowled 21 overs in the innings, but had conceded 32 of his runs in the space of three overs on day three. Sarfraz Ahmed plundered six fours off Southee early on day three to force him out of the attack - though the batsmen did also almost lose his wicket in the process.
"Personally I was a little bit off in that first spell," Southee said. "The rest of the guys bowled pretty well throughout that first innings. There were five overs in the start of the day where we missed a little bit. They [Pakistan] had a positive mindset and put the bad balls away. The nature of Sarfraz is that he's an aggressive player. If you do miss, he's going to look to put it away. We did that a few too many times."
Southee said New Zealand remained wary of Pakistan's attack as they head into the third innings of the match, but said the surface had become much better for batting. Only one ball of the New Zealand innings was bowled on Sunday, before rain washed out the remainder of the day's play. The forecast for the remaining days is promising, however.
"If you have positive intent and the bowlers are a little bit off, you can score on this pitch," Southee said. "It's not a big ground. I think the pitch has settled down a bit. There will still be some assistance there with the new ball, but once it becomes reasonably old - we saw today how guys could get in and play their shots."