Pakistan collapse to gift first Test to New Zealand in Abu Dhabi

New Zealand bowler Neil Wagner, center, celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Pakistani batsman Asad Shafiq during the fourth day of the first Test cricket match between Pakistan and New Zealand in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Pakistan collapse to gift first Test to New Zealand in Abu Dhabi

  • Hosts see wickets tumble as they collapse from from 130 for three to 171 all out.
  • Black Caps win by four runs — the fifth smallest win in Test history.

ABU DHABI: Debutant spinner Ajaz Patel took five wickets to lead a never-say-die approach from New Zealand bowlers as they pulled off a thrilling four-run win over an indisciplined Pakistan in the first Test in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Defending a modest 176-run target, New Zealand bowlers led by Patel (five for 59), fast bowler Neil Wagner (two for 27) and Ish Sodhi (two for 37) bowled out Pakistan for 171 on a drama-packed fourth day at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
It is the fifth smallest win in terms of runs in Test cricket’s history and gives New Zealand a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Azhar Ali fought a lone battle for Pakistan with 65 and was the last man out when he was trapped leg-before wicket by Patel. He reviewed Bruce Oxenford’s decision but the television replays upheld the decision.
Resuming on 37 without loss, Pakistan began the day as favorites to chase down the 176 they needed for victory although New Zealand will have taken some hope from Pakistan’s failure at the same ground last year to chase 136 against Sri Lanka.
Kiwi spinners Patel and Ish Sodhi opened the bowling and immediately caused problems as Pakistan lost three wickets in the first six overs.
Imam-ul-Haq was trapped leg-before for 27 to a full length ball by left-arm spinner Patel in the fifth over. In the sixth, Sodhi had Mohammad Hafeez caught in the covers and then three balls later held on to a return catch low to his left as Haris Sohail drove a full toss back at him.
Pakistani nerves were eased by the sight of Azhar and Asad Shafiq carefully rebuilding the innings with a fourth wicket partnership of 82.
Shafiq made a cultured 45, becoming the 11th Pakistani to reach 4,000 runs in Test cricket, but his dismissal in the last over before lunch, edging Neil Wagner to wicketkeeper BJ Watling, changed the game as Pakistan lost their final seven wickets for just 41.
After lunch, Babar Azam ran himself out for 13, the guilty party in a mix-up with Azhar and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed fell for a second time sweeping Patel, this time gloving the ball to Watling.
Bilal Asif tried to slog a straight ball from Patel and was bowled leaving Pakistan 154 for seven, still 22 runs short of victory.
The earlier measure at the crease had been replaced by chaos. In the next over Wagner had Yasir Shah caught in the slips and then Hasan Ali attempted a slog-sweep off Patel, picking out substitute fielder Tim Southee on the midwicket boundary.
Azhar then tried to inch Pakistan across the line, farming the strike from Mohammad Abbas.
But with five runs still needed to win Patel found the delivery to win the match for New Zealand.
The second Test starts in Dubai from Saturday while the third and final, again in Abu Dhabi from Dec. 3.


Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

Updated 21 February 2019
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Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

  • Former world No.1 blames three-set loss on tiredness after nine matches in 13 days.
  • Halep has high hopes for the rest of 2019, saying her game is in good shape.

LONDON: Simona Halep is still certain a good year lies in store for her despite losing to Belinda Bencic in the Dubai quarterfinals.
The Romanian former world No. 1 was the favorite to win her second title in the emirate but ran out of steam as her Swiss opponent ran out 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 winner.
It was Halep’s ninth match in just 13 days and she admitted tiredness had caught up with her.
“It was really difficult physically. I was tired,” the world No. 2 said.

Bencic came from a set down to beat the favorite in the last-eight encounter in Dubai. (AFP) 


“After the second set, I felt like I’m getting cramping a little bit. It’s normal. I was sweating a lot.”
While, her fatigue was clear for all to see, Halep was not using it as an excuse, admitting Bencic, who has now beaten her in two of their three matches, was the deserved winner.
“Yeah, she played well. She played very well. In the end, she was a little bit stronger,” the Romanian said.
Having lost in the Qatar final last weekend and failed to make the last-four in Dubai you might think Halep would be disappointed with her Middle East stint. She was, however, far from glum and revealed she is looking forward to landing more titles to add to her collection during the rest of the year.

Cheerio from Halep after her defeat to the Swiss. (AFP) 


“I think were three good weeks. Tough weeks. A lot of tension, a lot of pressure. Also the Fed Cup,” she said.
“I take only positive things. I had great matches. My level is good. Physically also I’m good. But day by day I had to play, so is not easy.
“I’m confident for the next tournaments.”