All the action as the Black Caps take on Pakistan in the second test.

It was slow — incredibly slow — but Pakistan blocked, nudged and eventually played their way into a strong position on day one of the second test in Dubai.

Then, they nearly threw their hard grind away, in the process giving New Zealand a timely late boost that their early efforts ultimately deserved.

You can always count on Pakistan for some baffling cricketing decisions, and sure enough, the final session of the opening day provided some head-scratching moments after the hosts had done so well to dig themselves out of an early hole.

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An interminable 126-run partnership off 368 balls between Azhar Ali (81 off 187 balls) and Haris Sohail (81 not out off 240) was plodding and unconvincing for large portions, but did the job as Pakistan rebuilt their innings, recovering from 25-2 to wrestle back control of the test.

[As it happened - A thrilling night of forward defence]

They ended at 207-4 – no, there was no rain delay, that was all they mustered in 90 overs of cricket - and yet, after overs and overs of torturous defence and slow, determined accumulation, Pakistan then produced a tragic run out and a mindless slog in the final session, losing two wickets to give the Black Caps a late reward.

Azhar was the run-out victim, going for a quick single. It was his call, but Sohail was statuesque, leaving Azhar to attempt a three-point turn in the middle of the pitch. A good throw from substitute fielder Tim Southee found him short of his crease, and 187 balls of graft was cruelly culled.

Asad Shafiq didn't last nearly as long, being drawn into a rash shot by Ajaz Patel. His attempted hoik looped off the top edge to Neil Wagner at backward point, leaving Sohail and Babar Azam with a tricky period with the new ball to negotiate before stumps.

They did it well, and that means Pakistan still have the advantage after winning a crucial toss. With the pitch already showing signs of turn, and limited bounce and carry, batting last on the wicket could be a nightmare, so a first-innings score of 300+ could be a strong early benchmark.

And if slow and steady wins the race, then Pakistan fit the bill. A wicketless second session only added 68 runs in 31 overs, and the third session took 75 minutes for the first boundary to be hit, but it was much-needed graft after an opening session dominated by the Black Caps.

Led by the under-pressure Colin de Grandhomme, the New Zealand bowlers were superb in the start of their quest for back-to-back victories, with only some severe luck saving the hosts from being in further trouble than 25-2.

With his spot in the side rightly under pressure after a serious batting slump, de Grandhomme was supported by the selectors, and proved he can still produce with the ball, taking two early wickets.

Beating the bat with regularity, de Grandhomme was drawing the openers into rash shots, and while Imam ul-Haq got away with a rash flash which went too quickly for Tom Latham to hang on to at second slip, Mohammad Hafeez wasn't as lucky, edging to Latham who more than made amends with a smart low grab.

Ul-Haq's time would come though, and it was the same combination that connected. De Grandhomme's medium pace cutters again drew a false shot, and the edge went to Latham at second slip.

In between removing the openers, de Grandhomme had seen a second-ball edge from Azhar fly directly between a static BJ Watling and Ross Taylor, as the Black Caps created a slew of edges and half-chances.

However, their inability to take those opportunities would prove costly. Azhar made the most of his second chance by compiling a composed innings, while Sohail looked like the world's worst batsman before lunch, but after the break eventually found the middle of the bat instead of repeated edges.

Their partnership was closer to what was expected to happen after Pakistan had won the toss and decided to bat. Considering what happened to them when forced to bat last on a similar pitch in Abu Dhabi, it was a smart decision.

Their late dismissals wouldn't be classified that way, and with Pakistan possessing a long tail, the Black Caps can go into tomorrow with hope of keeping the hosts in check before they face the tough test of what should become a tricky Dubai wicket.