Black Caps captain Tim Southee was confident he got the timing of his declaration right in the second test against Pakistan in Karachi, which ended in a dramatic draw.
He gave his side 93 overs to take 10 wickets – and Pakistan 93 overs to score 319 runs – when he called his players in late on day four at Karachi National Stadium.
As it turned out, only 90 were possible before bad light intervened late on day five, with the Black Caps still needing one wicket and Pakistan still needing 15 runs, their last pair having already added 17 in 3.3 overs with the field up.
Somewhat surprisingly, Southee and fellow seamer Matt Henry were the New Zealand bowlers who got through the most work on the final day, bowling 20 and 21 overs respectively.
But even though they were both operating at the time, he delayed taking the new ball for four overs in the final hour of play, even after Henry claimed the seventh wicket 10 balls after it was due, removing set batter Agha Salman.
When Southee did take it, he struck with his fourth ball to claim the eighth wicket, bowler Hasan Ali, but the fading light meant he was forced to use his spinners from there to the finish.
He explained afterwards that the hesitancy was down to the threat of Sarfaraz Ahmed, who made 118 before he was the ninth man out, caught at leg slip off the bowling of Michael Bracewell two overs later.
“With the two batters still in, Sarfaraz and Salman, we felt that runs could have come quickly,” Southee said.
“I think that was a build-up of the way Sarfaraz played throughout the day, which delayed us taking the new ball.
“If he hadn’t played as positively as he did through the day, then we would have been able to take the new ball when it became available and had a lot more runs to play with.
“It was a bit of a balancing act. If you take the new ball, it may come on a bit easier and we were just trying to manage how to get through that partnership, which we did. We were able to take that new ball and get another couple of wickets.
“It’s a fine line and you go on a bit of a gut feeling what you feel is right at the time along with the other leaders in the group.”
While the Black Caps came up just short of claiming their third win in 44 years in Pakistan – and their first series victory since 1969 – Southee said he was happy with the timing of his declaration.
“We felt the surface was still a pretty good surface if you wanted to just bat, but tough if you wanted to score runs.
“It was a bit of a balancing act to try and get the right amount of overs left and the right amount of runs. And I guess to get a little dip at them [2.5 overs] last night and got them two down, that was a great start.
“I guess you always look back and there are ways you could improve and you could get better with hindsight, but that was a decision we made at the time.”
The Black Caps now have a three-match one-day international series against Pakistan starting Monday, which will be followed by ODI and Twenty20 series in India.
Their next test series is at home against England, with the first of two matches, a day-night fixture, starting on February 16 at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.