1st Test: Fifties from Williamson, Taylor give Black Caps edge over Pakistan

Last Modified Saturday, 26 December 2020 (16:47 IST)
Tauranga: Fighting fifties from captain (94* ) and his senior campaigner (70) gave New Zealand a slight edge over Pakistan on the opening day of the first Test, here on Saturday.
 
During the eventful day at the Bay Oval, two wickets fell in the first session, followed by none in the second, and only one in the final one. The visitors had their moments but solid knocks from Williamson and Taylor put New Zealand in the driver's seat. 
 
The hosts went to stumps on 222/3, with skipper Williamson unbeaten on 94 and Henry Nicholls keeping him company.
 
At the start of the final session, they lost Taylor, who became New Zealand's most capped player across formats, but Williamson continued unperturbed and brought up his 33rd Test fifty. He equalled Stephen Fleming's record of the most fifty-plus scores in Test cricket for the Black Caps.
 
Nicholls, who starred with a 174 in his last Test appearance against West Indies earlier this month, also looked in good touch, making 42* runs from 100 balls. Together, Williamson and Nicholls stitched an unbroken 89-run stand.
 
Earlier in the morning, Pakistan's stand-in captain Mohammad Rizwan won the toss and opted to field first. His decision turned out to be a fruitful one as Afridi provided his side a dream start with two early wickets.
 
He first struck on the third ball of the day, when Tom Latham edged a tempting back-of-a-length ball with considerable bounce, straight to Azhar Ali at third slip, who fumbled at first but held on eventually to send the opener back for four. 
 
Pakistan pace-bowling duo of Afridi and Mohammad Abbas kept the Kiwi batsmen in check. Their effort yielded another wicket with Afridi once again taking the charge. 
 
Tom Blundell, who wasn't looking comfortable from the start, in an attempt to drive the ball ended up edging it in the slip cordon where Yasir Shah took a superb catch, leaving the hosts on 13/2 in the 11th over.
 
It could have been three wickets for Pakistan in the first session itself, but Williamson survived, on 18, in the 24th over when Shan Masood put down a tough catch at second slip.
 
The second session fully belonged to New Zealand, as the experienced duo of Williamson and Taylor made the Pakistan bowlers toil and shifted gears to steadily up the run-rate. They added 73 runs in a wicket-less session to take their side to 128/2 at tea. En route, they brought up their 10th hundred-plus stand in Test cricket.
 
Shortly after tea, the hosts lost the important wicket of Taylor, who looked set at the crease. Afridi induced another outside edge and the New Zealand batsman was caught behind for a well-made 70 ? his 34th half-century in the format.
 
Brief Scores: New Zealand 223/3 (Kane Williamson 94*, Ross Taylor 70; 3-55) 
(UNI)