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It was a dream comeback for Sarfaraz, will uplift his confidence: Babar Azam

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Karachi [Pakistan]: Following his side’s thrilling draw in the second Test against New Zealand, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam lauded veteran and former skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed, saying that his performance will uplift his confidence immensely.

Pakistan’s last wicket partnership between Naseem Shah and Abrar Ahmed survived 21 balls in fading light while Sarfaraz Ahmed slammed a fighting hundred to deny New Zealand a victory in the second Test here on Friday. “The plan was to be careful and assess according to the situation. Sarfaraz, Saud and Salman batted well. We just wanted to keep it simple and see where it takes us, we needed a big partnership and that is what we got in the middle order,” said Babar about the 319-run chase in a post-match presentation.

“The game changed a bit after the dismissal of Salman Agha (we decided to pull the shutters down on the chase). As a captain, there have been quite some positives, we need to polish those well and continue doing well,” added Babar on how the match changed and the series itself.

“It was a dream comeback from Sarfi (Sarfaraz Ahmed) bhai, we kept backing him and the way he did when the opportunity came, it is very heartening to see. This will lift his confidence immensely,” concluded Babar.

Coming to the match, New Zealand elected to bat first and was bundled out for 449 runs in their first innings. Devon Conway (122), Tom Latham (71) made contributions at the top while wicketkeeper-batter Tom Blundell (51) also scored a fifty. A 104-run stand for the final wicket between Matt Henry (68) and Ajaz Patel (35) propelled Kiwis to a massive score.

Abrar Ahmed (4/159) continued his dream run with the ball that he started against England, finishing as the pick of the bowler for Pakistan. Naseem Shah and Agha Salman took three wickets each.

In their first innings, Pakistan responded with 408 runs. Imam-ul-Haq (83) impressed once again, while Saud Shakeel (125) hit his maiden ton as well, continuing a fantastic start to his Test career. Sarfaraz also scored a 78. Pakistan trailed Kiwis by 41 runs.

Spinners Ajaz Patel (3/88) and Ish Sodhi (3/95) were the pick of the bowlers for the Kiwis. Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Daryl Mitchell picked up a wicket each.

Kiwis declared their innings at 277/5, gaining a 318-run lead over the hosts. Blundell (74), Michael Bracewell (74) and Tom Latham (62) scored vital half-centuries. Naseem Shah, Mir Hamza, Abrar, Hasan Ali and Agha Salman all got one wicket.

Chasing 319, Pakistan was reeling at 80/5 and risked losing the series. Sarfaraz and Saud weaved a 123-run stand to bring the hosts back in the game, but Bracewell removed Saud for 32.

Agha also stitched a valuable stand with Sarfaraz, who went on to hit his first-ever Test ton on home soil. But bad light halted Pakistan’s chase, finishing at 304/9, with 15 runs left to chase. Naseem (15*) and Abrar (7*) could not take Pakistan across the line and the match was drawn.

The series was shared 0-0.

Bracewell (4/75) impressed with the ball, while Southee, and Sodhi picked two scalps. Henry also got a scalp.

Sarfaraz’s heroics with the bat earned him both the ‘Man of the Match’ and ‘Man of the Series’ award. He scored 78 and 118 in this Test match. He emerged as the top scorer in the series with 335 runs in two matches, four innings at an average of 83.75. Sarfaraz scored one century and three fifties in his return series. Prior to this series, he had played his last Test against South Africa back in 2019. The rise of star wicketkeeper-batter Mohammed Rizwan put a halt on his career. But Rizwan’s struggles since March 2022, from when he failed to score a fifty in his next 12 innings lead to Sarfaraz’s recall.

Brief Scores: Pakistan: 408 and 304/9 (Sarfaraz Ahmed 118, Shan Masood 35, Michael Bracewell 4/75) drew with New Zealand: 449 and 277/5 declared (Tom Blundell 74, Michael Bracewell 74, Naseem Shah 1/43).

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