Conway, Latham take NZ to 165-0 in reply to Pakistan’s 438

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — New Zealand’s opening pair of left-handed batters responded with a solid 165-0 in the first cricket test on Tuesday after Agha Salman had scored his first test century and led Pakistan to 438.

Devon Conway and Tom Latham batted confidently against the challenging spin of Abrar Ahmed on a dry wicket to remain unbeaten on 82 and 78, respectively, at stumps on the second day.

New Zealand trails by 273 in its first test tour to Pakistan since 2002.

Conway also completed 1,000 test runs in 19 innings, taking the national record previously held by John F. Reid.

“We still scored at 3.5 (runs) an over without sort of forcing any risks,” said Kiwi legspinner Ish Sodhi. “Hopefully it continues for us tomorrow.”

Conway could have been dismissed on 57, an hour into the last session, but Pakistan missed an opportunity by opting not to go for a caught-behind TV referral. Television replays suggested Conway had got a faint inside edge after Nauman Ali had spun the ball back into the batter from the rough.

Both batters used their feet well against Abrar, who took 17 wickets in two test matches against England earlier this month. Conway reached his half century off 89 balls with nine fours, including four against Abrar.

Latham followed in reaching his 50 off 96 balls with six fours as both batters grew in confidence and didn’t hesitate to even reverse sweep on a wicket which still has some turn for the spinners.

Pakistan’s weakened pace attack in the absence of injured Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah, didn’t offer a challenge to Conway and Latham with the new ball as both batters took New Zealand to 41-0 by tea before adding 124 more runs in the final session.

Leftarm fast bowler Mir Hamza, recalled after four years since playing his only test against Australia in 2018, and Mohammad Wasim, also playing only his second test, couldn’t break through.

Earlier, the 29-year-old ill Salman batted resolutely in the company of tailenders to score 103 with 17 fours. He was the last batter to be dismissed when Pakistan was bowled out an hour after lunch.

“I can’t describe in words how proud I feel today after getting my first test century,” Salman said.

Tim Southee, the Kiwis’ new test captain, picked up his 350th test wicket and wrapped up the innings when Salman tried to play across the seamer, was struck on the back leg and was ruled out leg before wicket.

Southee was the pick of the bowlers with 3-69 while three spinners — Michael Bracewell (2-72), Sodhi (2-87) and Ajaz Patel (2-112) — shared six wickets.

Salman, who made his test debut against Sri Lanka earlier this year, was well supported by the tail in his sixth test after Pakistan lost Babar Azam in the day’s first over with no addition to his epic overnight score of 161.

Nauman Ali (7) defied New Zealand bowlers for 75 balls in a snail-paced knock but Salman kept the scoreboard nudging in the first session in which the visitors conceded just 60 runs after Pakistan resumed on 317-5.

Salman survived a close lbw TV referral against Sodhi and raised his half-century in his sixth test off 97 balls with a straight driven boundary off Neil Wagner but New Zealand struck in successive overs just before lunch.

Wagner picked up his lone wicket when Nauman pulled at the leftarmer but was well caught by Bracewell at square leg. Sodhi picked up his first test wicket in four years after being recalled for the tour of Pakistan when Mohammad Wasim attempted a ramp shot and Tom Blundell held onto a thin edge.

Salman changed gears and smashed Wagner for five boundaries after the break but was still 11 runs away from his first hundred when No. 11 Abrar Ahmed walked in.

Salman didn’t hold back his aggression and hit Southee straight for a boundary and then celebrated his century off 155 balls with two successive boundaries against Sodhi.

Earlier, Babar, who was dropped on 12, was caught behind for 161 off 280 balls when Southee found the outside edge off his fourth ball of the day. On Monday, the skipper had saved Pakistan with a 196-run stand for the fifth wicket with Sarfaraz Ahmed, who made 86 runs in his comeback test match in almost four years.

“After Babar got out very early (Tuesday), I took the responsibility but credit goes to Nauman too, who stood out there with me and faced almost 80 balls,” Salman said.

New Zealand is touring Pakistan for two test matches and three ODIs with Karachi hosting all the games after weather concerns in Multan forced the Pakistan Cricket Board to move the second test to Karachi.

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