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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Asad Shafiq urges Pakistan bowlers to set up 'small target' against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi Test

Centurion wary of pitch conditions while Somerville says match 'hanging in balance', 48 runs behind with eight wickets in hand

Asad Shafiq is happy his 12th Test century came for Pakistan just when the team needed a big score against New Zealand. AFP
Asad Shafiq is happy his 12th Test century came for Pakistan just when the team needed a big score against New Zealand. AFP

Asad Shafiq has warned batting in the fourth innings will be tough for Pakistan if they allow New Zealand to build a significant lead in the deciding Test in Abu Dhabi.

The visitors trail by 48 runs with eight wickets in hand, with captain Kane Williamson (14) and William Somerville (1) at the crease at the close of play on Wednesday.

“We will have to try and get them out as quickly as possible because batting here in the fourth innings is always tough,” Shafiq said.

“Obviously we’ll have to get a breakthrough early tomorrow and make sure we have a small target to chase.”

Earlier on Day 3, batsman Shafiq hit his 12th Test century and shared a 201-run stand for the fourth wicket with Azhar Ali (134) as Pakistan posted 348 to take a first innings lead of 74.

“I was not converting my starts into big scores,” Shafiq said. “Today the team needed a big score and me, too. I’m happy that I managed to do that.

“There was a responsibility for both me and Azhar to play a big role after Younis [Khan] and Misbah [ul Haq] retired.

“That was always playing in my mind to play big innings after getting a good start. I didn’t want to throw away my wicket. The focus was to contribute whenever possible.”

Azhar’s departure at 286-4 and Asad’s fall at 304-5 saw the remaining five Pakistani wickets fall for just 44 runs, and while Shafiq is not pleased by his side’s batting collapse, he insisted the most important thing was runs on the board, whichever way they came.

“The batting collapses are big concerns but we are trying to avoid such flops because runs matter at the end,” he said.

“Our lower order is also trying to contribute and that’s something we have always been working on.

“When they score, even the confidence of the opposite team takes a blow. We all realise this, and as a team, if the lower order score, it always benefits the team.”

Shaheen Afridi provided the breakthrough when New Zealand began their second innings. The left arm paceman had Jeet Raval trapped in front for a duck and then Yasir Shah had Tom Latham (10) caught by Haris Sohail at deep square.

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“We have to keep bowling in the right areas and keep their scoring under check,” Shafiq said. “Yasir and Bilal [Asif] have been bowling well and hopefully they can put up another good show tomorrow.”

Somerville, who came in as night watchman, was the pick of the New Zealand bowlers with four wickets on his Test debut, and the off-spinner is confident his team can remain competitive.

“We are two down already. We hope we can play the long game again and try to score as many runs as we can,” he said.

“The game is still hanging on the balance. The wickets are a bit slower and a bit more challenging here.

“We still have a lot of work to do after getting in to a good position. It’s not easy to chase here, so, it was a good toss for us to have won.”