Babar Azam and Sarfaraz Ahmed save Pakistan on the first day of the Test against New Zealand.

Babar Azam and Sarfaraz Ahmed save Pakistan on the first day of the Test against New Zealand.

Pakistan’s current and former captains joined forces to save their team from a front-line collapse against New Zealand on Monday. The hosts hit the Strains at 317-5 on the first day of the first Test.

Babar Azam, unbeaten with 161, and Sarfaraz Ahmed (86) put Pakistan in a strong position after New Zealand took a 110-4 lead.

The New Zealand side took three opening points on the field at the National Stadium and one before lunch, but they had to wait until the final moments when Ajaz Patil caught Sarfaraz on the slide.

By the end of the match, Babar and Agha Salman (3) were on the pitch as Pakistan looked set to recover from last week’s 3-0 defeat by England, their first home defeat.

Babar has now scored 1,170 runs in nine Tests this year, making him the top scorer in 2022. He also beat Muhammad Yusuf’s total of 2,435 in 2006 in all three formats, with 2,584 this year.

Sarfaraz, in his first Test since January 2019, broke nine boundaries in his 256-minute volley.

“I finally got a chance and I hope today’s strike will help the team,” Sarfaraz said. “Of course it was frustrating not to get a century in my hometown, but the partnership with Babar was more important to me.”

New Zealand will come to regret letting Babar escape as a 12-year-old after losing Daryl Mitchell to Bracewell. The tourists also failed to eliminate the 54-year-old Babar when Devon Conway missed off stump as the Pakistani captain was off his post.

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“Babar took his chance and played very well,” Patel said. “He just kept pressuring us as we started to gain momentum…and it took it all in. Obviously no one wants to give away bookings, but that happens sometimes, that’s the nature of the game.”

The New Zealand team dominated the first round, as Bracewell knocked out Shan Masood for three minutes and Imam-ul-Haq for 24 minutes, while Patel grabbed Abdullah Shafiq for seven minutes.

On the penultimate pass before lunch, fast bowler Tim Southee knocked Saud Shakil off for 22, completing a successful session for the tourists, who are playing their first Test series in Pakistan since 2002.

New Zealand’s decision to play with three players seemed justified, as the National Stadium erupted from the start. Patel came on in the fourth inning only. He spun his third ball onto Shafiq, who was playing forward, and headed it through goalkeeper Tom Blundell.

Then Braciwill dismissed Mesut on his second pass before Imam made a typo and fell into midfield. Then Babar and Sarfaraz join forces to save Pakistan.

New Zealand, who canceled a white-ball tour of Pakistan last year due to security concerns, are looking to end a four-match losing streak. Southee is the new captain after Kane Williamson’s six-year tenure.

Pakistan are looking to overcome a similar stumble, including a 3-0 home loss to England, in the two-Test series against the New Zealanders.

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