Babar Azam and Sarfaraz Ahmed punish sloppy New Zealand in first Test

Babar Azam knocked a fighting hundred and the recalled Sarfaraz Ahmed hit a half-century to guide Pakistan to a healthy 317-5 on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Karachi on Monday.

The pair led Pakistan’s recovery from 110-4 during a 196-run fifth wicket stand, as the home team lost only Ahmed’s wicket in the last two sessions.

New Zealand spinners had taken three early wickets on a spin-assisting National Stadium pitch and one before lunch but had to wait until the closing moments when Ajaz Patel got Ahmed caught in the slip for 86.

At close, Azam was unbeaten on 161 and Agha Salman three as the home team looked to lift from last week’s 3-0 loss at the hands of England, their first-ever whitewash at home.

Azam now has 1,170 runs in nine Tests this year — the highest run scorer in Tests in 2022.

He also beat Mohammad Yousuf’s 2006 aggregate of 2,435 in all three formats, taking 2,584 runs across the board this year.

The Pakistan skipper swept spinner Michael Bracewell for a six towards mid-wicket to reach his ninth Test century. He has also hit 16 boundaries.

Ahmed, playing his first Test since January 2019, cracked nine boundaries in his 256-minute knock.

New Zealand will be ruing letting Azam off the hook when he was on just 12 after Daryl Mitchell spilt a regulation catch at slip off Bracewell.

The tourists also failed to run out Azam on 54 when Devon Conway missed the stumps with the Pakistan skipper well short of his crease.

New Zealand’s spinners dominated the first session, with Bracewell dismissing Shan Masood for three and Imamul Haq for 24, while Patel took the early wicket of Abdullah Shafique for seven.

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