At Karachi National Stadium: Black Caps 449 all out in 131 overs (Devon Conway 122, Tom Latham 71, Matt Henry 68no; Abrar Ahmed 4-149, Naseem Shah 3-71, Agha Salman 3-75) with Pakistan 154-3 in 47 overs (Imam-ul-Haq 74no)
There isn’t much you can do in cricket that is worse than running out of your captain.
But there is running out your captain then falling soon after yourself.
So if he walked off the field Karachi National Stadium at stumps on day two, Imam-ul-Haq could at least be glad he hadn’t done that.
He might have sold Babar Azam down the river for 24, but he was not out on 74 with Pakistan 154-3 in reply to the Black Caps’ total of 449, trailing by 295.
Saud Shakeel was alongside him on 13 having taken 42 balls to get off the mark, and the contest was as evenly balanced as it had been when the day began with the visitors 309-6 in their first innings.
Early on, it looked like Pakistan might have been able to dismiss New Zealand for under 400, with Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee and Tom Blundell all falling quickly, the latter after making 51.
Then came a 104-run partnership for the 10th wicket between Matt Henry, who finished unbeaten on 68, and Ajaz Patel, who made 35, his highest test score.
It was the sixth-largest partnership for the final wicket in team history and the second-largest by a Kiwi No 10 and No 11, and it was broken up seven runs short of matching the total their team-mates added for wickets three through nine .
Henry and Patel then combined to remove Abdullah Shaffique for 19, the latter taking a catch at deep square leg.
Shan Masood came out playing with intent and hit Patel for three fours in one over, but got greedy and hit the final delivery straight to Devon Conway at point and departed for 20, having only faced 11 balls.
Once Babar and Imam came together, however, they were able to play confidently, as was to be expected on a pitch the two Black Caps tailenders had shown to be lifeless.
Then came the run-out, where Imam stood his ground after calling for a third, then aborting his plans, while Babar charged on. They exchanged blunt words as Babar departed with Pakistan 99-3.
At 234-1 just after tea, the Black Caps were on top on the first day in Karachi, but at stumps they had slumped to 309-6.
From there New Zealand ramped up the pressure, with the hosts only adding 55 in the final 22.2 overs of the day.
One blemish was a missed catch by Blundell off Michael Bracewell that could have sent Shakeel on his way for an 18-ball duck.
Imam also survived a scare before the run-out, when Daryl Mitchell couldn’t claim a sharp chance off Henry’s bowling at leg gully.
The left-hander brought up his half-century by advancing down the wicket and hitting Bracewell for six and avoided seeing his captain for as long as he possibly could.
The big moment
Pakistan were still sitting relatively comfortably at the end of play at 154-3, but they would have been more comfortable at 154-2 – or greater, as was likely if Babar and Imam had stayed together. The run-out of Babar was a needless self-inflicted wound, but they at least ensured there was no further damage.
Best with the bat
Only time will tell whose runs were more important in this test – Henry’s or Imam’s. At stumps on day two, Henry gets the nod, as his unbeaten 68 helped the Black Caps post a total of 100 runs larger than it might have been otherwise. Having now faced 220 balls in six innings since the start of 2022, might he have earned a promotion over Southee, who has faced 218 in 13 innings in the same period?
Best with the ball
It was not a bowler’s day, but Henry was accurate and maintained good pace throughout as he got through 12 overs with the ball. He claimed one wicket and might have had another, capping a fine all-round day.
The big picture
Two back-and-forth days of test cricket in a row have this match set up nicely as it approaches the halfway point, but the Black Caps will be wary they couldn’t make pressure tell in the final hour, leaving them in need of an early breakthrough on day three. Tom Latham didn’t take the field on day two and was said to be ill, so New Zealand will also be hoping he recovers swiftly.