Abu Dhabi: Azhar Ali, BJ Watling and Bilal Asif all starred on yet another attritional day of Test cricket which saw just 184 runs scored across 87.1 overs as Pakistan and New Zealand shared the honours on Day 2 of the third and final Test in Abu Dhabi.
Watling played with pristine patience thwarting anything and everything that the Pakistan bowlers threw at him to help his side to a competitive 274 in 116.1 overs.
Azhar then followed it up with an equally solid knock after the hosts lost two early wickets as Pakistan ended the second day on 139/1 after 61 overs, still trailing New Zealand by 135 runs. By the time stumps were called for Azhar was unbeaten on 62 (169 balls) and had Asad Shafiq for company on 26 (85 balls).
Resuming on 229/7, the overnight pair of Watling and Will Somerville added an invaluable 45 runs to take New Zealand closer to a par total. Both batsmen showed staunch resistance and grit ensuring they did not throw away their wickets.
Watling battled for over five-and-a-half-hours to record his 16th half-century reaching the landmark with a four off pacer Hassan Ali.
His partner at the other end, Somerville did not add a single run to his overnight score of 12 but made sure he stood like a rock before Asif picked up all three final wickets to signal an end to New Zealand's innings.
The off-spinner first got rid of Somerville with a delivery that spun from way outside off to outfox the debutant and breach his defence for a 99-ball 12 before having Ajaz Patel (6) caught at forward short leg.
Asif then completed his second five-wicket haul in just his fifth Test with the wicket of Boult (1). He finished with impressive figures of 5/65 from 30.1 overs. Watling remained unbeaten on 77 (250 balls) which included five fours.
Pakistan innings started off on the wrong foot with Trent Boult striking in his very first over getting one to shape away from opener Mohammad Hafeez (0) who could only edge it low into the hands of Tim Southee stationed at second slip as New Zealand went into lunch on a high.
The other side of the break too saw Pakistan lose an early wicket with Boult doing further damage. He first hurried Imam-ul-Haq (9) with an excellent bouncer that hit the left-hander flush on the helmet and then followed it up with a full outswinger that caught the opener's outside edge and flew to Southee at second slip who completed his second good catch of the innings.
At 17/2, Pakistan were in desperate need of some stability which they got through Haris Sohail and Azhar. The left and right hand combination troubled the New Zealand bowlers as they struggled to maintain their lines. Both batsmen made sure they rotated the strike at every given chance alongside collecting the odd boundary.
For New Zealand, Boult was the pick of the bowlers returning with figures of 2/39 in 14 overs while Southee picked up the other wicket to fall.