Pakistan 59 for 2 (Haris 22*) trail New Zealand 153 (Williamson 63, Nicholls 26, Yasir 3-54) by 94 runs
Pakistan may have closed it out at a slightly rocky 59 for 2, but let nothing take away from how disappointing the first day was for New Zealand. Only once had a team batting first lost a Test match in Abu Dhabi, but the way the visitors played, they may already be on course to add to that list. There was precious little resistance with the bat, one solid partnership between Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls excepted, with every Pakistan bowler among the wickets as they skittled Williamson's men out for 153, the lowest-ever first-innings total in Abu Dhabi.
Despite New Zealand choosing to bat first, it was Pakistan who dominated the first hour-and-a-half. New Zealand appeared under pressure from the outset, and the bowling pair supposed to be Pakistan's most threatening, Mohammad Abbas and Yasir Shah, delivered on their reputations. Abbas' nagging accuracy got the better of Jeet Raval in the 11th over, the opener prodding at one he could have left alone and nicking a simple catch to Sarfraz Ahmed.
The second wicket came through sheer containment. Bilal Asif prevented run-scoring in his first spell and Abbas at the other end gave the batsmen no room to breathe either, and something had to give. That something ended up being Tom Latham, who had looked to play some release shots in the previous few overs and done well with them, but he failed to get to the pitch of a Yasir delivery and flicked a comfortable catch to short midwicket. If you only watched the highlights, you might have called it a soft dismissal, but it was the build-up of pressure over the previous half-hour that had finally taken its toll.
In an extended opening session due to Friday prayers, Williamson rose above the rest as Pakistan prowled. Williamson and Henry Nicholls continued to settle as Pakistan's bowlers finally dropped their intensity. With the bowlers beginning to tire towards the end of a 150-minute opening session, Nicholls and Williamson almost looked comfortable at the crease, and finished the session looking stronger than they had at any point during it.
Incredible as it may seem now, the post-lunch session began with Williamson and Nicholls looking ever more comfortable. The run rate, which had stood at a soporific 2.18 before lunch, had picked up, and for the opening half-hour after lunch, the pair scored at over four runs per over. The pitch looked like it might be flattening out, and New Zealand were well on their way to salvaging the damage of the first hour.
It was after the pair were dismissed that it became transparent how hard it was to get in on this pitch, and how easy to get out. New Zealand lost seven wickets for 42 runs to fold meekly for 153, the catalyst for the carnage an exhilarating burst from Hasan Ali that removed two in two. And for all the class with which Williamson and Nicholls had batted, both their dismissals will rankle New Zealand if they end up on the losing side. Having fended off all of Abbas's deliveries that were at or around off stump, Nicholls lazily reached for one that was well outside, looking to drive it through the covers. A chunky outside edge carried to the keeper, and the softest of dismissals had broken a gutsy partnership.
The way Williamson fell was hardly more sophisticated. Hasan had perhaps been the least effective of Pakistan's bowlers this morning, so when he returned for a spell in the afternoon, there wasn't a reason for New Zealand's best batsman to be wary. When he banged one in short, it hardly spat up into the batsman's face. But Williamson attempted to hook; he had enough time to duck, or indeed execute the shot better. A slight tickle instead went to a diving Sarfraz Ahmed, and suddenly New Zealand's lower middle order was vulnerable against a buoyant Pakistan.
Hasan made it two in two with a fast wicket-to-wicket delivery that smashed into Colin de Grandhomme's pads, exposing Ish Sodhi in an unwelcomingly long tail. It brought into the game Haris Sohail, who had begun to find sharp turn, and the allrounder trapped Sodhi and, more consequentially, BJ Watling in front to leave New Zealand eight down. Bilal Asif and Yasir Shah shared the last two wickets, the inexplicable leave from Ajaz Patel to a straight delivery that wrapped up the innings summing up a wretched middle session for New Zealand.
It left Pakistan with a tricky session to bat out before stumps, and though they didn't make it out completely unscathed, they did not allow New Zealand to take the bagful of wickets they needed to claim something approaching parity. Both Imam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Hafeez were guilty of poor shot selection, Imam prodding outside off stump to a gentle de Granhomme delivery that was pouched by gully, while Hafeez pulled Trent Boult straight into the hands of midwicket.
Azhar Ali and Haris hung on till the end of the day's play, much as Williamson and Nicholls had done before lunch. New Zealand will have to put in some bowling effort, though, if they are to trigger anything like the collapse that already looks like it might have cost them dear in this first Test.