Azhar's half-century helps Pakistan make inroads on New Zealand's 274
Azhar Ali made a classy half-century as Pakistan's middle order made significant inroads into New Zealand's first-innings total of 274 on day two of the deciding third Test.
New Zealand added 45 runs to their overnight total of 229-7, BJ Watling making an unbeaten 77 off 250 deliveries, with Bilal Asif (5-65) sweeping up the tail to claim his second Test five-for before lunch in Abu Dhabi.
Pakistan wobbled early in their reply with Trent Boult (2-39) dismissing opening duo Mohammad Hafeez (0) and Imam-ul-Haq (9).
Azhar proved a much tougher nut to crack, though, and a valuable 68-run partnership with Haris Sohail (34) was followed up by an unbeaten stand of 54 with Asad Shafiq (26 not out).
By stumps, Azhar was unbeaten on 62 off 169 balls as Pakistan closed on 139-3, still 135 runs in arrears.
Pakistan reach 139/3 at the close of play, 135 runs behind New Zealand in the deciding Test of the series.— ICC (@ICC) December 4, 2018
Azhar Ali is unbeaten on 62 while Trent Boult took two early wickets for the Black Caps. #PAKvNZ LIVE https://t.co/cS8PI6iRJlpic.twitter.com/FA32A5rTY1
Bilal's place in the team before this Test had been questioned, but he was Pakistan's chief protagonist with the ball, William Somerville – whose 12 runs came from 99 balls – misreading an offbreak that took out middle stump.
Watling continued with the poise and concentration he showed on day one, but Ajaz Patel (6) and Boult (1) offered no support at the other end.
As has been the case through the series, Pakistan's openers struggled for runs – Hafeez edging Boult to Tim Southee, who was down early to snaffle the catch on the last ball before lunch.
Imam fell in very similar circumstances to the same combination, Southee taking another sharp catch at third slip this time, shortly after taking a nasty bouncer to the helmet.
Azhar and Sohail faced little difficulty, though, with the duo comfortably negotiating the spin of Colin de Grandhomme, Patel and Somerville with relative ease.
Sohail opened up on the odd occasion, but he fell after tea with a nick behind off Southee in a big breakthrough for New Zealand.
It was a brief upturn, though, as Azhar flicked one behind square to bring up his fifty before driving De Grandhomme down the ground, while Asad punched a few to the ropes to bring Pakistan closer to New Zealand's total.