New Zealand 271 and 0 for 0 lead Pakistan 216 (Azam 90*, Sarfraz 41, Southee 6-80, Wagner 3-59) by 55 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A six-wicket haul from Tim Southee secured a 55-run lead for New Zealand and left Babar Azam stranded ten short of a maiden Test hundred on a damp third day at Seddon Park. Rain allowed only 38.1 overs of play. A brief shower forced lunch eight minutes early, and only six balls were possible in the second session. Pakistan's innings ended 5.2 overs into the third session, after which the New Zealand openers came out and faced one ball before it rained again.
Pakistan were 76 for 5 at the start of the day's play, and trailed New Zealand by 195. That they narrowed their deficit to 55 was down largely to two partnerships featuring Azam: 74 for the sixth wicket with Sarfraz Ahmed, and 67 for the seventh with Sohail Khan. New Zealand then struck back, taking the last four wickets for only 24 runs.
Azam had feasted on some wayward New Zealand bowling on the second evening, picking up a number of boundaries with the cut and the flick. The seamers were a lot more disciplined against him on the third morning, largely sticking to a fourth-stump line and seldom wavering from a good length. Azam fought discipline with discipline, showing excellent defensive technique and looking entirely unaffected when his partners outscored him. He looked to play in the V as much as possible, and two of his five fours on the day came in that region, glorious drives down the ground off Wagner.
The morning began with Sarfraz going after the bowling by pulling, cutting, and jumping out of his crease to put the fast bowlers off their length. He hit six fours in two successive overs from Southee, who was unable to find either the seam movement or the length that helped him run through Pakistan's top order on day two and offered up a number of short balls. Just as he entered the 40s and raised hopes of a similar innings to his match-turning 96 against Sri Lanka in Galle last year, he steered Neil Wagner straight to second slip, where Jeet Raval clung onto an excellent reflex catch.
Sohail, whose second-innings 40 in Christchurch earned him a promotion to No. 8, took over Sarfraz's role at the crease. Wagner, looking to test him with the short ball from both sides of the wicket, ended up leaking runs as Sohail took him on with the pull and the hook. Twice in succession, Sohail sent the ball soaring over the fielder at long leg, and once he bisected long leg and deep square leg.
The seventh-wicket pair took Pakistan into the 190s before Southee, returning for his second spell of the day, found some outswing to break the partnership, first beating and then kissing Sohail's outside edge. Then, in the next over, Colin de Grandhomme had Wahab Riaz lbw, his front pad going too far across the stumps and coming in the way of his bat's downswing.
The final session began with Pakistan 201 for 8, with Azam batting on 81. Southee bowled a leg-stump half-volley which Azam put away to the boundary, but produced a beauty in his next over, the extra bounce forcing Mohammad Amir to lob a catch to second slip off the glove.
In came Imran Khan, playing his eighth Test and yet to score a run in the format. He got off the mark off his second ball, dabbing Southee for a couple towards third man, and Azam moved to 90 with a rasping square-cut off Matt Henry in the next over. That, though, would remain his last scoring stroke, as Southee, peppering Imran with the short ball, forced the No. 11 to tickle one off his ribs and offer BJ Watling a catch down the leg side.
Southee's 6 for 80 was his first five-wicket haul at home since his debut Test in 2008.