New Zealand in charge as Wagner, Boult shatter Pakistan

Christchurch, New Zealand—Test cricket is as much about execution of tactics as much as it is about planning. It allows teams the luxury of switching plans midway. In blunting 35 overs for a little over one run per over after restricting their first-innings deficit to 67, Pakistan ensured the new-ball storm was weathered. But their crawl allowed New Zealand to take the edge when they came out with renewed verve after tea on a bright and sunny day in Christchurch.
Neil Wagner, who bowled full and slanted the ball across in the hope of bringing the slip cordon into play before the interval, switched to his usual modus operandi of troubling batsmen with short balls aimed at the ribcage, and broke Pakistan’s spine in the process. At 129 for 7 at stumps, ahead by 62, with just Asad Shafiq and the tail remaining, Pakistan were in danger of losing their second successive Test, barring an unlikely thunderstorm for the better part of the next two days.
Wagner triggered the turnaround when he caught Babar Azam on the hop on a couple of occasions before having him glove a bouncer down leg side to wicketkeeper BJ Watling to bring up his 100th Test wicket. Then, Younis Khan was put through a similar short-ball test, the disconcerting bounce pushing him deep into the crease to fend.
Did he anticipate the sucker ball? He may have, but in sticking to his short-ball tactic, Wagner outfoxed Younis, whose uncomfortable stay ended when he tried to get out of the way of a delivery that reared up to brush his gloves on its way through to Watling. A tiring Wagner, whose second spell read 11-5-9-2, made way for Trent Boult and Southee, whose relentless attacks kept the batsmen on their toes.
Azhar was reprieved when he chanced a risky run off a deflection at slip.—AFP

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