Karachi, December 26: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam broke multiple records as Pakistan dominated the first day of play against New Zealand in Karachi on Monday.
Pakistan recovered from 110 for four to finish the opening day’s play in the first Test against New Zealand at 317/5.
Captain Babar Azam benefitted from a dropped catch at 12 to end the day at a sublime 161 not out, his third century in fifth Test in Karachi and ninth overall in 46 Tests, while former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, returning in whites for the first time since January 2019, was dismissed for 86 when five overs remained in the day.
The 35-year-old former captain, playing his 50th Test and first at his home ground, struck nine fours in his 256 minutes of batting and added 196 runs for the fifth wicket with Babar Azam. It was this partnership that rescued Pakistan after New Zealand had made a dream start to their first Test here since 1990 and first in Pakistan in 20 years by reducing the home side to 48 for three in the first hour before the hosts, aiming to avoid fifth straight defeat in their backyard, reached 115 for four at lunch.
Babar and Sarfaraz then added 109 runs in the second session as Pakistan went for tea at 224 for four, while the last session yielded 93 runs for the loss of the latter.
Babar, whose previous scores in Karachi were 60, 100 not out (vs Sri Lanka), 7, 30 (vs South Africa), 36, 196 (vs Australia) and 78, 54 (vs England), has struck 15 fours and a six in his 363 minutes of batting. World No.2 ranked batter survived a nervous moment in the final over of the day when he was declared leg before off Ajaz Patel, but television replays confirmed the ball would have gone over the stumps.
During this knock, Babar also became the highest run-scorer in Tests in 2022, beating England’s Joe Root who ended the year with 1,098 in 15 matches. Babar, who now has 1,170 runs in nine Tests this year, also beat Mohammad Yousuf’s aggregate of 2,435 in all three formats of the game in 2006 — the most by a Pakistan batter. He now has 2,584 runs in three formats this year.
Earlier, Babar Azam made the right call on the spin of coin, but New Zealand made the most of the first hour’s play with the new ball when left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel and off-spinner Michael Bracewell had Abdullah Shafique and Shan Masood stumped in a space of 16 balls as Pakistan slipped to 19 for two. This was the first time in the history of Test cricket when the first two batters on the opening day of the match had been stumped.
New Zealand could have added the scalp of Babar at the score of 47 but Daryl Mitchell dropped a sitter in the first slip off Bracewell, who, one run later, had Imam-ul-Haq caught at mid-off by Tim Southee to leave Pakistan tottering at 48 for three.
At that stage, Babar and local boy Saud Shakeel (22) put on 62 runs for the fourth wicket to take the score to 110. However, Saud, like he had done against England, perished on a stroke before lunch when he was caught at point by Henry Nicholls off Southee.
However, the master and his disciple – Sarfaraz and Babar – held the innings together and played some delightful strokes to all parts of the field.
Babar reached his half-century from 76 balls with seven fours, while he brought up his ninth Test century with his only six from 161 balls that also included nine fours. Sarfaraz completed his 19th half-century from 84 balls.
Scores in brief:
Pakistan (1st innings) 317-5, 90 overs (Babar Azam 161 not out, Sarfaraz Ahmed 86, Saud Shakeel 22; Michael Bracewell 2-61, Ajaz Patel 2-91).