Pakistan made an unexpected and strange declaration in the final session of day five of the first Test in Karachi, setting New Zealand a target of 138 in 15 overs. Babar Azam might say that they “took a chance” to produce a result but 15 overs were never going to be enough to dismiss New Zealand, especially after they had batted 194.5 overs in the first innings.
The hosts were in a spot of bother after the first innings, with New Zealand managing a lead of 174. However, the likes of Imam-ul-Haq, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel and Mohammad Wasim Jr stood tall in the second essay and propelled Pakistan to a safe position. However, that’s when Babar decided to call back his batters and gave New Zealand a chance to go for the target.
Abrar Ahmed then knocked over Michael Bracewell in the very first over and it looked like we could actually have a game on our hands. But, Devon Conway and Tom Latham then took the attack to Pakistan as New Zealand raced to 61/1 in 7.3 overs before the game had to be stopped due to bad light. If New Zealand would have got 15 overs to bat, they might have even chased down the target.
"Saud was a bit shocked when we declared. He thought we were going for a draw. We said we'd go after a result. We took a chance, you never know. It's cricket. Anything can happen," said Babar after the match.
"Saud and Wasim Junior's partnership was vital for us because it brought us into the game. That put the idea in my head that we could declare. You all will have enjoyed it as well, and it surprised everyone. It was in our mind we'd take a chance because anything can happen.
"We sent a message in, just before we declared, to tell the batters to assess the conditions and play according to those. At times you have to take brave decisions and take chances. As a team and captain, I try and do that. You plan for a result, even if you can't guarantee it."
Pakistan didn’t lose this Test but they haven’t won one at home for nearly two years. Their last win came against South Africa in February 2021 and have lost four and drawn three since then. "It's not that we need to play different cricket," Babar said.
"We need to take things session by session and day by day. We need to be positive and play with aggression. We're working on it. Everyone has a different game and mindset. We need to credit New Zealand with the way they played and dominated.
"We lost three early wickets but we came back after that. Salman Ali Agha deserves credit for the way he batted with the tail (in the first innings) and put us in a good position. Imam, Sarfaraz and Saud Shakeel built partnerships in patches in the second innings, and Wasim chipped in as well. So the batting line-up did quite well.
"As a coach and captain we can ask for what kind of wicket you need. You know spinners dominate there and reverse swing from the fast bowlers gives you an edge. The fast bowlers bowled well. Mir Hamza bowled well and there were lots of close appeals on his bowling, which also created chances. You don't always get what you want but the conditions are the same for both sides."