Pakistan captain Babar Azam slammed his ninth Test century, also his third in Karachi, and remain unconquered on 161, propelling the hosts to 317/5 at the end of day one’s play in the series opener against New Zealand on Monday.
Apart from him, a returning Sarfaraz Ahmed shined in his 50th Test appearance and first at home with a gritty 86 off 153 balls. Ahmed, coming in for Mohammad Rizwan to get a Test appearance after almost four years, shared a mammoth 196-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Babar lasting 56.3 to put Pakistan in a position of strength and demoralise New Zealand.
Newly-appointed New Zealand Test skipper Tim Southee introduced veteran left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel into the attack in just the fourth over of the day and the move paid dividends almost immediately as Abdullah Shafique was out stumped by wicketkeeper Tom Blundell for seven.
Then just three overs later the Kiwis had their second scalp and it was Shan Masood that perished this time, with the left-hander stumped by Blundell off the bowling of off-spin all-rounder Michael Bracewell.
Bracewell then went on to dismiss the usually reliable left-handed batter Imam-ul-Haq shortly after – the Pakistan opener was out caught – giving New Zealand an excellent start to the Test match and to the series on a flat pitch.
Bracewell could have got Azam out in the 15th over had Daryl Mitchell held on to a regulation catch at first slip that would have sent the Pakistan skipper on his way to the pavilion for 12.
Babar then stitched a 62-run stand with Saud Shakeel to get Pakistan past hundred. But the latter fell for 22 on the stroke of lunch, giving a catch to gully off Southee. From there, New Zealand were sent on a leather hunt as Babar and Sarfaraz, batting in Tests for the first time since January 2019, joined forces for a mammoth partnership.
Babar would get his century by swinging across the line for a six over deep midwicket in the second session off Bracewell. He and Sarfaraz would get majority of their runs through the leg-side though the latter was also hit by a hip injury.
New Zealand played three spinners in Patel, Bracewell and Ish Sodhi, but the trio were not much effective in stemming the run flow as their economy rates were between 3.4 and 4.9. Once the new ball was taken, New Zealand had a breakthrough when Sarfaraz edged Patel to first slip in the 86th over, bringing his colossal partnership with Babar to an end.
Babar survived an lbw decision six balls before stumps, when he reviewed off Patel and replays showed the delivery to be bouncing and going over the stumps. He would then walk off the field unbeaten an 161 on stumps, with Agha Salman by his side on three not out.
Brief Scores: Pakistan 317/5 in 90 overs (Babar Azam 161 not out, Sarfaraz Ahmed 86, Michael Bracewell 2/61, Ajaz Patel 2/91) against New Zealand