Babar ton lifts Pakistan after New Zealand early strike

Captain Babar Azam hit an unbeaten 161 as Pakistan overcame a shaky start to score 317-5 against New Zealand on the first day of the opening test at Karachi’s National Stadium on Monday.

Babar rode his luck in a 277-ball innings that included 15 fours and a big six to boost his century, while Agha Salman was unbeaten on three stumps after New Zealand failed to capitalize on a strong start with the ball .

Babar opted to bat first and the tour side began their first Test in Pakistan in 20 years by taking two quick wickets via stumpings, with Ajaz Patel removing Abdullah Shafique for seven and spinning partner Michael Bracewell knocking off Shan Masood for three.

Bracewell could have had Babar’s main wicket in the 15th over, but Daryl Mitchell dropped a simple chance at first slip, though the bowler responded by letting Imam-ul-Haq catch at halfway three deliveries later for 24.

Pakistan recovered from the early blows as Babar reached his half-century, but New Zealand skipper Tim Southee cut them to 110-4 as Saud Shakeel (22) took a lead over Henry Nicholls in the gully shortly before lunch.

Babar continued his save after the break, however, reaching his ninth Test century in the company of Sarfaraz Ahmed, who made 86 in his first Test since 2019 after replacing wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan in the side.

Babar enjoyed a superb 196-run partnership with Sarfaraz before Patel sacked the former captain when he shoved one at Mitchell at first slip shortly before the end.

New Zealand, who abandoned their white-ball tour of Pakistan last year over security concerns, are looking to end a streak of four successive Test defeats with Southee as the new captain after Kane Williamson’s six-year tenure.

Pakistan are trying to recover from a similar slump, including a 3-0 home defeat to England, in the two Test series against the New Zealanders.

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