New Zealand face uphill battle after Azhar, Shafiq hit hundreds

New Zealand's players appeal dismissal of Pakistan's Asda Shafiq in their test match in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Updated 05 December 2018

New Zealand face uphill battle after Azhar, Shafiq hit hundreds

  • Azhar hit an attractive 134 for his 15th Test hundred while Shafiq scored 104
  • Shafiq said Pakistan must limit New Zealand in their second innings after his side failed to chase down 176 in the first Test

ABU DHABI: Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq hit centuries to leave Pakistan in command of the third and final Test against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi despite a batting collapse that curtailed their first-innings lead.
Azhar hit an attractive 134 for his 15th Test hundred while Shafiq scored 104, but debutant New Zealand off-spinner Will Somerville took four wickets to restrict Pakistan to 348 all out.
Pakistan appeared set to build a huge lead before collapsing from 286-3 to lose their final seven wickets for the addition of just 62 runs.
The 34-year-old Somerville finished with 4-75 while left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel took 2-100 and pace spearhead Trent Boult chipped in with 2-66.
That gave Pakistan a 74-run lead -- the same advantage they held in the first Test at the same venue before losing by four runs.
New Zealand were then reduced to 26-2 at stumps with Kane Williamson unbeaten on 14 and nightwatchman Somerville on one not out to leave them trailing by 48 runs with eight wickets intact.
Paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi trapped Jeet Raval for nought while leg-spinner Yasir Shah had Tom Latham caught for ten, his 199th wicket in Tests.
Yasir needs just one more wicket to become the fastest to 200 wickets, in his 33rd Test, a record currently held by Australian leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett who reached the milestone in 36 Tests, 82 years ago.
Shafiq said Pakistan must limit New Zealand in their second innings after his side failed to chase down 176 in the first Test.
"It's always nice to bat with Azhar," said Shafiq. "But it was disappointing that we couldn't get a big lead. It happens in cricket and you have to give credit to the bowlers.
"We need to get them out quickly tomorrow so that we don't need to chase a lot of runs."
Azhar and Shafiq put on 201 for the fourth wicket, but once they were dismissed only Sarfraz Ahmed (25) and Babar Azam (14) offered some resistance.
Azhar edged medium pacer Colin de Grandhomme through the slips to complete his first century since May 2017 against the West Indies in Dominica - and his first hundred against New Zealand.
He took 210 balls to reach the three-figure mark, before being caught sweeping off Somerville, just before tea.
Shafiq brought up his 12th Test ton with a sharp single off Somerville before falling leg-before to Patel to a straight delivery.
Somerville then had Azam and Hasan Ali (nought) bowled and wrapped up the innings by getting Sarfraz caught at mid-wicket.
Earlier, Azhar and Shafiq frustrated New Zealand's search for early wickets as they took Pakistan to 224-3 at lunch.
New Zealand skipper Williamson took the second new ball in the 81st over with Pakistan comfortably placed at 213-3, but the bowlers struggled to extract much life from a flat pitch at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Pakistan levelled the series with an innings and 16-run win in the second Test in Dubai.


Thiem into ATP Finals semis as Djokovic and Federer face shootout

Updated 35 min 58 sec ago

Thiem into ATP Finals semis as Djokovic and Federer face shootout

  • Austrian fifth seed took fight to the world No. 2, recovering from losing the first set to triumph

LONDON: Dominic Thiem produced a scintillating display of attacking tennis to beat Novak Djokovic and qualify for the last four at the ATP Finals on Tuesday, leaving the Serbian facing a shootout against Roger Federer.

In the standout match so far at London’s O2 Arena, the Austrian fifth seed took the fight to the world No. 2, recovering from losing the first set to triumph 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5)

Earlier, Federer put himself back in the mix at the end-of-season event with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 win against Italian debutant Matteo Berrettini in their round-robin clash.

Federer and Djokovic will face off on Thursday in a repeat of this year’s Wimbledon final to determine who else will progress from Group Bjorn Borg.

Thiem was forced to play high-stakes tennis against the 16-time Grand Slam winner, taking the breath away with some of his inside-out forehands and single-handed backhands

Forced to play at his limit, he hit 50 winners compared with Djokovic’s tally of 27 but also racked up 44 unforced errors.

“This was really one of these special matches, what I’ve practiced all my life for, all my childhood for,” Thiem said.

“Really epic one in an amazing atmosphere, beating a legend of our game. And also I’ve qualified for the semifinals, which is the best.

“Coming back from 1-4 (down in the deciding tie-break) was a little bit of luck, but it was an unbelievable match and one I’ll never forget. Novak is the best player in the world and I had to do something special.”

In a captivating first set the players swapped a break apiece but Djokovic, a five-time ATP Finals champion, edged the tie-break.

Undaunted, Thiem broke his opponent at the first opportunity in the second set and, with Djokovic’s error count climbing, went on to level the match.

Thiem also drew first blood in the decider but cracked in the sixth game as Djokovic levelled the match and appeared to have engineered a switch in momentum.

The Austrian successfully challenged at 30-30 in the 10th game after his forehand was ruled out, preventing a match point for Djokovic and he toughed it out to level at 5-5.

He then broke Djokovic to love to earn a chance to serve for the match but stumbled and the decider went to a tie-break.

Still the drama was not finished. Thiem slipped to 4-1 down but battled back to win it on his second match point when Djokovic dumped a forehand into the net.

Third seed Federer had put himself under the cosh by losing his opening round-robin match to Thiem. The six-time champion was not at his fluent best on Tuesday but ultimately had too much for his Italian opponent.

The Swiss upped his game to take the first set tie-break comfortably and broke immediately at the start of the second set to leave the big-serving Berrettini with too much to do.

Federer was asked after his win against Berrettini whether his defeat to Djokovic at Wimbledon had left emotional or mental scars.

“We’ll find out, but I think it’s all flushed away from my side,” said the Swiss.

“A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.”

Djokovic is hunting a sixth ATP Finals title to pull level with Federer’s record and is also seeking to pip Rafael Nadal to the year-end number one ranking.

On Monday, top seed Nadal lost his opener in Group Andre Agassi to defending champion Alexander Zverev while Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Daniil Medvedev.