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Ish Sodhi’s best in vain as Pakistan salvage draw against NZ in first Test

New Zealand's Ish Sodhi celebrates after the dismissal of Pakistan's Sarfaraz Ahmed during the fifth and final day of the first Test match at the National Stadium in Karachi on Friday

New Zealand’s Ish Sodhi celebrates after the dismissal of Pakistan’s Sarfaraz Ahmed during the fifth and final day of the first Test match at the National Stadium in Karachi on Friday. Photo: Asif Hassan/AFP

Published Dec 30, 2022


Karachi — Pakistan staved off a fifth consecutive defeat at home with a hard-fought draw in the first Test at the National Stadium in Karachi on Friday despite career-best bowling figures from New Zealand leg-spinner Ish Sodhi.

Sodhi grabbed 6-86 and threatened to give New Zealand victory in the first two sessions on the fifth and final day, but Pakistan fought on before declaring their second innings on 311-8.

That gave New Zealand a tough target of 138 to win in 15 overs, and the chase ended in fading light on 61-1, with Tom Latham unbeaten on 35 and Devon Conway on 18.

Michael Bracewell’s wicket was the only one to fall, for three runs.

Sodhi was the star as he improved on his previous best of 4-60 against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo four years ago.

The 30-year-old, playing his first Test in four years, turned the match in New Zealand’s favour with three wickets in the second session to leave Pakistan on 249-7 at tea with 35 overs left in the match.

But Saud Shakeel, who ended with 55 not out, and Mohammad Wasim (43) defied the visitors for 75 minutes and 111 balls during their 71-run eighth- wicket stand to deprive New Zealand of a win.

Soon after tea, Sodhi trapped Wasim leg-before, but Mir Hamza (three not out) assisted Shakeel in an unbroken ninth-wicket stand of 34 runs in 50 minutes to further frustrate the visitors.

Shakeel, who hit seven boundaries and a six, built on fighting knocks from Imam-ul-Haq (96) and Sarfaraz Ahmed (53) in the first two sessions.

Tim Southee, captaining his side for the first time in a Test, admitted Pakistan’s batters took the game away from them.

“There was a bit of assistance if bowled in the right areas, but a couple of good innings took the game to safety for them,” he said.

But he also had praise for Sodhi, saying: “I think he can be extremely proud of his return to Test cricket.”

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam defended his bold declaration.

“We wanted to get a result — as I said at the toss — and we went for the declaration, but the light was not good enough,” he said.

“Wasim and Saud brought us back in the match. Credit to them for playing positive cricket.”

In the post-lunch session, Sodhi dismissed Sarfaraz, Agha Salman (six) and Haq in the space of 27 balls for the addition of just 21 runs.

Haq and Sarfaraz had added a defiant 85 runs for the fifth wicket and raised hopes of salvaging a draw for the home team before Sodhi struck.

He had Sarfaraz caught behind, bowled Salman, then got Haq stumped to leave Pakistan on 206-7.

Haq, who survived lbw referrals off the bowler on 58 and 74, cracked 10 boundaries and a six in his sixth half-century, while Sarfaraz had seven hits to the rope.

Haq was so incensed by his dismissal that he smashed a chair with his bat on the way to the dressing room.

Resuming on 77-2, Pakistan lost nightwatchman Nauman Ali early, trapped leg-before by spinner Bracewell.

Then Azam — who scored 161 in Pakistan’s first innings of 438 — was out the same way to Sodhi for 14.

The second Test starts at the same venue on Monday.