By the close of stumps on the opening day, Pakistan had reached 207-4 in their 90 overs with Haris Sohail (81) and Babar Azam (14) the unbeaten batsmen at the crease.
Run scoring did not come easy on a difficult track at the Dubai International Stadium with batsmen struggling to time the ball. Among the Pakistan batsmen, Sohail stood out with his patient approach and determination.
Here, we take a closer look at his performance on Saturday.
RUNS SCORED: 81
BALLS FACED: 240
Sohail arrived at the crease much earlier than he would have expected after Colin de Grandhomme sent both Pakistan openers packing. The left-hander immediately set about repairing the early damage alongside the experienced Azhar Ali during a highly cautious partnership.
The pair oversaw a wicketless second session as they brought up a century stand before Azhar was run-out. Sohail, however, continued to soldier on and brought up a well-deserved third Test half-century.
Sohail remained unbeaten on the first day with his scoring-rate picking up towards the close of play.
The stylish southpaw did not take any undue risks in his 240-ball vigil at the crease on Saturday. It wasn’t the prettiest innings from the Pakistan middle-order batsman who went into preservation mode after the early fall of the openers. Pakistan skipper Sarfraz had demanded longer stays at the crease from his batsman post the Abu Dhabi loss and that is exactly what he got from Sohail on day one in what was an excruciatingly patient knock.
While there is much to be lauded about Sohail’s perseverance, it was a painstakingly slow approach from the Pakistan batsman who took nearly 200 deliveries to get to his 50-run mark. The wicket might have been on the slower side but Pakistan and Sohail would have been better served with more rotation of the strike.
The slow strike-rate came back to hurt Pakistan towards the end of play with the wickets of Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq spoiling all the hard-work done in the middle session.
Sohail was also involved in a run-out which saw the well-set Azhar dismissed.
VERDICT – 7/10
Given Pakistan’s extraordinary collapse in the Abu Dhabi Test, Sohail’s circumspect approach was somewhat understandable. Sarfraz had urged his batsmen to build more partnerships and Sohail’s 126-run stand with Azhar was exactly that. The left-hander had missed out on a big score in the first innings at Abu Dhabi despite getting an excellent start but he now has the chance to make amends in Dubai.
Though his innings on Saturday might have been a crawl at times, Sohail is now well positioned to make it count and put Pakistan in a commanding spot on day two. He has done the hard work to get his eye in but now he needs to cash in come Sunday with a second Test ton well within his sights.
A well fought fifty by Haris Sohail! He came in under pressure but his defence remained rock solid! A very well crafted innings! 👏🏼— Islamabad United (@IsbUnited) November 24, 2018
Can he convert this fifty into a big score?#PAKvNZ pic.twitter.com/QLuXFbLz1H
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