New Zealand 24 for 0 trail Pakistan 418 for 5 dec (Haris 147, Babar 127*) by 394 runs
They had a night's sleep, but Pakistan and New Zealand might well have just carried on unbroken by stumps last night, so similar was the tempo today.
Haris Sohail and Babar Azam's 70-over behemoth of a partnership sought to grind New Zealand into the dirt, amassing 186 runs. Both reached Test hundreds, Babar belatedly his maiden one in the format, before a surprise declaration with the score at 418 - the lowest ever for a first innings declaration in the UAE - saw New Zealand have to keep their wits about them. That they did successfully enough, going in at stumps without having lost a wicket but still trailing by almost 400 runs.
Curiously, Pakistan didn't quite pick up the pace even as the pressure lifted. Heaps of credit must go to New Zealand's bowlers for that, whose large-hearted efforts ensured they were never - not once in 167 overs - simply going through the motions awaiting a declaration. The lines were kept tight, the plans were still being hatched, and attempts to take wickets never wavered even as it seemed the toil of a treacherously unhelpful wicket would finally take its toll.
That Pakistan only managed 418 might prove crucial over the next three days; only once before has a team declared at a score under 500 in this country. That was Sri Lanka in 2014, and they ended up losing with mere overs to spare.
Pakistan, however, went back to what served them best during the halcyon days of Misbah-ul-Haq. They won the toss, and they set about batting for two days, shutting everything and everyone else out. It was the sort of steel that had been absent from their soft capitulation in Abu Dhabi, and they were eager to wipe it clean from everyone's memories. Because of that, day two was almost a cut and paste of day one, Babar replacing Azhar Ali in a monstrously energy-sapping partnership with the indefatigable Sohail.
Only 67 runs had come off a morning session where Kane Williamson called upon all of his five bowlers - as well as himself - at various times in an attempt to break through with no success. Perhaps surprisingly, Ajaz Patel bowled the first over instead of Trent Boult, but once he was taken out of the attack, he wouldn't return all session. Boult wasn't exactly subdued, but never quite possessed the penetrative threat he had carried this time around yesterday. Sodhi continues to struggle with the considerable challenge of bowling a consistent line in Test cricket, and found himself punished whenever he wavered, particularly by Babar in an over that went for 12, accounting for almost a fifth of all the runs this morning.
Despite some eyebrows raised at the particularly snail-paced nature of the scoring yesterday, Haris and Babar made it clear they would not be changing their ways. Beginning today at 207, Pakistan were still not out of the woods, and a batting collapse would have seen all the grind of yesterday count for nothing.
Haris looked slightly jittery when one run from completing a deserved hundred, charging down the wicket to Sodhi to several balls without ever getting to the pitch. It was only a rushed single that got him there before he was able to revert to type, and once more looking like the player who had bet his life upon his wicket.
It wasn't that Babar went unnoticed, but so effortless was the manner of his first Test century, you forgot this was a player who barely averaged 30 in this format. Batting for the first time since being agonisingly dismissed for 99 against Australia last month, he was determined to set the record straight against their trans-Tasman neighbours. And while Sohail toiled, Babar was, relative to the pace of the game, free-flowing. He, too, stuttered upon reaching his 90s and spent the entirety of the tea break stranded on 99, but there was never any question he would be denied once again. Where much was expected of Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq in the most Misbah era, Pakistan will be heartened to see a younger duo stepping up.
Sohail's vigil did end in a lively hour after tea when he was three runs short of 150, Boult finally claiming a wicket he was due about five sessions ago. Babar and Sarfraz Ahmed picked up the pace somewhat, but never to the extent that suggested a declaration tonight was imminent. The pair added 62 runs in 18 overs, and when Babar lofted a long hop from a wicketless Sodhi for six, it looked as if a Pakistan charge was on the cards. They turned out to be the last runs Pakistan would score, however, with the Pakistan captain pulling the plug after 167 to give his bowlers a crack at a tiring New Zealand.
Tests like these in this part of the world have a reputation of bursting into life over the latter half. That bodes well for any viewers who sat through the first two days; they might feel they've earned a bit of excitement. The challenge for New Zealand will be to gear themselves up mentally to produce the sort of patience and determination Pakistan showed after toiling in the field for nearly two days.
Pakistan, meanwhile, have consciously, forcefully and successfully dredged up the formula that Misbah imparted upon them, and as things stand right now, all the equations seem to match.