Kane Williamson has hailed the astonishing four-run win in Abu Dhabi as New Zealand's "best in recent memory" and among the best in his career. Speaking just after New Zealand triggered a Pakistan collapse that saw the hosts lose their last six wickets for 24 runs to be bowled out for 171, the New Zealand captain praised the attitude and "fighting attributes" of his side.
"Some of the characteristics we hold very dear is our attitude whenever we had to get back into the game, be it with the bat, ball or in the field throughout these four days," he said. "I think the fighting attributes of this team really shone through, certainly today. It's important to build on a number of parts to go into the next game, for sure."
It wasn't just today that the momentum of the game ebbed and flowed. In truth, it had been a match that, across four days, refused to reveal its hand, with no side able to establish a clear advantage over the other. For the most part, it was Pakistan doing the frontrunning, but whenever it appeared they were pulling too far ahead, New Zealand rallied, dragging themselves back into the contest, refusing to lie down.
Consider that New Zealand's 153 was the lowest ever first innings score by any side in Abu Dhabi. When, two sessions into the match, the visitors had been turned over, it looked like the result was already a foregone conclusion, with Pakistan having historically demonstrated the ability to grind opponents into the desert dust. Here, however, Williamson's men, playing their first Test match in seven months, kept themselves in the contest. 74 was a sizeable first innings lead, but partnerships in the second innings ensured they would leave themselves with enough to play with to have a shot.
"It certainly was dramatic," Williamson reflected. "Throughout the four days, both teams were put under pressure. I think at the end of the day it was a great advertisement for Test cricket. The wicket was challenging and both teams had to fight hard, and certainly Pakistan had the upper hand after day one.
"To get through the four days and stay in the match and come out with this result must obviously rank as one of our best wins. In theory it was an old-fashioned Test match, really slow in terms of scoring. The guys had to really fight hard for the runs and that partnership [112 runs between BJ Watling and Henry Nicholls] was huge for us to get a lead, even though it wasn't a big lead. But it still kept us in the game. I guess when you look back, winning by such a small margin means every contribution in terms of runs scored and runs saved on the field did matter."
It was a game for partnerships, with one wicket triggering several more on numerous occasions. That meant those pairings that did find a way to spend quality time at the crease made crucial, and in New Zealand's case, match winning contributions. Of the 402 runs the visitors aggregated over two innings, 270 came across just three partnerships. It was up to the specialist batsmen to make they key difference in the most testing of conditions; only 136 runs were scored by the last five wickets across the four innings, the lowest of any match since 1980.
"We saw the nature of how wickets fell in clumps," Williamson said. "I'm not sure why it was challenging to start as a batsman, and we knew if you're able to keep the pressure on, who knows what might happen? This game was very close and you can reflect on how you do so many little things differently depending on which side of the result you're on, but at the end of the day it was a great game."
It certainly was, prompting many to gush about the state of Test cricket, and the value of the format at a time when it is in increasing danger of being marginalised. But across in the other dressing room, Pakistan will draw little consolation about the fillip this match provided to a format that, just two years ago, they were ranked the best in the world in.