New Zealand at 128-2 on first day against Pakistan

New Zealand at 128-2 on first day against Pakistan

Pakistan’s Faheem Ashraf looks towards New Zealand’s Kane Williamson during the first day of the first cricket test match between New Zealand and Pakistan at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui. Credit: AFP.

New Zealand's most prolific test batting partnership again came to its rescue Saturday on the first day of the first cricket test against Pakistan. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor built an unbroken stand of 115 for the third wicket which lifted New Zealand from 13-2 during the morning session to 128-2 at tea as it batted first after losing the toss. Taylor was 66 not out at the break and Williamson, poised to reach his 33rd half century, was 49.

Taylor's 34th test fifty was also his second-slowest in terms of balls faced, coming from 127 deliveries with eight boundaries. Williamson and Taylor have batted together more than 150 times in tests, accumulating more than 3,000 runs at an average in excess of 50.

A partnership of that magnitude was sorely needed Saturday as Shaheen Afridi dismissed both New Zealand openers cheaply after Pakistan won the toss and batted on a responsive pitch at Bay Oval. Williamson and Taylor went one better, producing their 10th century partnership in tests. The milestone, to which Taylor contributed 54 runs and Williamson 43, came up just before tea. Williamson has been at the crease since the first over of the match. New Zealand opener Tom Latham (4) was out to the third ball of the innings and the captain was once against called on to lead the fightback. His first partnership with Tom Blundell was short-lived. Blundell was out for 5 in the 11th over when New Zealand had only 13 runs on the board.

Taylor joined Williamson and the pair set about one of their trademark rebuilding operations. Batting has not been easy in either of the first two sessions. Pakistan's seamers have been demanding in helpful conditions. Afridi's extra pace and bounce made him difficult to handle early on and Mohammad Abbas kept pressure on the New Zealand batsmen with his unrelenting line and length.

Abbas's first 11 overs included seven maidens and cost only 10 runs as he tested the batsmen with a line just outside off stump and with his ability to move the ball back into the right hander made leaving the ball a dangerous option. New Zealand is unbeaten in 15 Tests at home and most recently beat the West Indies 2-0 in a two-match series.

In both of those matches the West Indies won the toss and bowled first on green pitches and New Zealand reached first innings total of 519-7 and 460. Those totals reflected the West Indies' inability to keep pressure on the batsmen in helpful bowling conditions.