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Babar Azam scores 100 to lead Pakistan to 224-4 in the first Test against New Zealand.

Babar azam century

On the first day of the first Test, which began on Monday in Karachi, New Zealand’s spinners made early inroads, but Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam scored a stunning century to lead his team’s recovery to 224-4 at tea.

Azam completed his seventh Test century by hitting spinner Michael Bracewell for a six towards mid-wicket, giving Pakistan a boost after they were struggling at 115-4 at the break. Having won the toss and batted, Azam was unbeaten on 119, with the recalled Sarfaraz Ahmed alongside him on 43, as they added 114 for an unbroken fifth-wicket partnership.

Azam also hit 11 boundaries while Ahmed — playing his first Test since January 2019 — had seven hits to the rope.

New Zealand will be ruing letting Azam off the hook when he was on just 12 after Daryl Mitchell spilt a regulation catch at slip off Bracewell. The tourists also failed to run out Azam on 54 when Devon Conway missed the stumps with the skipper well short of his crease.

New Zealand’s spinners dominated the first session, with Bracewell dismissing Shan Masood for three and Imamul Haq for 24, while Patel took the early wicket of Abdullah Shafique for seven. In the penultimate over before lunch, fast bowler Tim Southee dismissed Saud Shakeel for 22 to complete a successful session for the tourists, playing their first Test series in Pakistan since 2002.

New Zealand’s decision to play with three spinners appeared justified, as the National Stadium pitch took a turn right from the start. Patel came on to bowl in just the fourth over of the innings. He turned his third ball across a forward-playing Shafique and had him stumped by wicketkeeper Tom Blundell.

Bracewell then had Masood stumped in his second over before Haq miscued a drive off him and was caught at mid-off. This is the first time in Test cricket history that the first two dismissals in an innings were both stumped.

Pakistan, who suffered their first-ever 3-0 home whitewash to England last week, recalled Ahmed, Mir Hamza and Haq to the side.