Cricket: New Zealand's hopes turn to bowlers

By David Leggat

Tim Southee's late flourish boosted the New Zealand score. Photo / Getty Images
Tim Southee's late flourish boosted the New Zealand score. Photo / Getty Images

Given a choice, you would rather be in Pakistan's shoes than New Zealand's when play starts at Seddon Park today.

But events in the final 90 minutes on the first day of the opening test yesterday mean it might be better for the footwear to only be slipped on, rather than with the laces tied.

Pakistan have yet to bat and things could have been much gloomier for New Zealand, having been sent in, had it not been for the two youngest members of the side, Kane Williamson and Tim Southee.

They have shared an unbroken stand of 83 for the eighth wicket in New Zealand's 260 for seven.

The upshot is New Zealand will need to bowl cleverly, thoughtfully and with penetration today on what looks like a pitch on which batsmen should prosper over the weekend.

"Once it flattens out there's not a lot in it so we're going to have to bowl very well," Martin Guptill said.

"The pitch is flat," Pakistan's spinner Abdur Rehman added bluntly. He should have a good idea having twirled his way through 30 overs - 29 in one spell from just before lunch until eight overs from the end of the day.

Guptill and Brendon McCullum looked to have negotiated the awkward first session handily enough.

But from 78 for one at lunch, things went pear-shaped. The second session produced four wickets for 82 as Pakistan bit back.

The dismissals varied from conventional to unlucky to plain bizarre.

McCullum, having slapped a couple of sixes to reach his half century, speared a delivery from Umar Gul directly to deep backward point.

Ross Taylor, beaten by a beauty from Rehman, which spun and bounced, then touched a catch to the wicketkeeper in shaping to cut.

Jesse Ryder is one of those batsmen who doesn't appear to have been at the crease long but a glance at the board shows he's already reached 20. So it was yesterday and the lefthander looked to be in decent touch before being run out backing up at the non-striker's end.

Guptill's drive was straight and Wahab Riaz's nimble fingers got the deflection on his follow through.

The tall Aucklander grafted hard through the middle session. Rehman kept a flat and relentless line and getting runs wasn't easy but Guptill stuck to the task impressively and reached his half century only to push a thigh-high full toss straight to cover after almost four hours' toil.

Reece Young's test debut ended when he was given lbw stretching well down the pitch trying to sweep.

There is no referral system in operation here. Had there been, Young would certainly have been inclined to use it.

When Dan Vettori played all around his second ball the slope looked slippery for New Zealand.

So it was a good time for Williamson, 20, and Southee, 21 to step up.

Their methods were different. Williamson - dropped on 17, a difficult, deflected chance to slip off Rehman - was more circumspect but straight drove expertly and paced his innings tidily.

Southee launched several booming drives and showed what has long been suspected: that he's a better batsman than his figures suggest.

His second test half century arrived with an overthrown five. He batted sensibly and well.

Williamson has been there almost three hours, Southee not far off two.

The batsmen should have been kicking themselves after a day of lost opportunities, but another hour of those two today and the bowlers should at least have something to work with.

It may not be enough, but how solid Pakistan's batting is remains to be seen.

- NZ Herald

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