CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand beat Pakistan by eight wickets in the first Test at Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Sunday to snap a four-Test losing streak. Set 105 to win in their second innings, New Zealand reached their target after lunch on the fourth day of the low-scoring match with debutant Jeet Raval finishing on 36 not out. Raval hit a four to push New Zealand over the line on 108 for two shortly after lunch on the fourth day. Kane Williamson, leading New Zealand in a test for the first time at home, scored his 24th half century to guide the hosts to victory.
Chasing a target of 105 for the win, Williamson was dismissed on 61 with the hosts just a run shy of victory. New Zealand had bowled the visitors out in their second innings for 171 about an hour into the day’s play at Hagley Oval. Tom Latham was the only New Zealand wicket to fall before lunch when he failed to handle a bouncer from Mohammad Amir and was caught in the gully by Asad Shafiq for nine. The victory was New Zealand’s first in their last six tests, having drawn the first match with South Africa in August before losing the second then being swept 3-0 by India in October.
“Naturally it’s tough coming off a few losses but its good to be home and the boys stepped it up and put some of those feelings of defeat behind us to play a very good test match,” Williamson said in a televised interview. “The first innings it did a bit for both teams and there were two low scores,” added Williamson, one of only two players to achieve a half century in the match. Raval scored 55 in his first innings. “But we knew that second innings would be really important against a strong side like Pakistan who tour very well. It was a very good performance.” Williamson said the patience of New New Zealand’s bowlers in Pakistan’s second innings was crucial in clinching the emphatic eight-wicket victory. “Our bowling effort in the second innings,” Williamson told reporters in Christchurch on Sunday as to what he had been most impressed by in the match. “Pakistan showed a lot of resistance early and were very patient. But the way the four seamers got into spells and held their areas for a long period of time and it was passed over to the next guy to take up the baton was world class and why we… got the rewards later in the day.”
Williamson also praised his two debutants, all-rounder de Grandhomme and opening batsman Jeet Raval, for the way they had slotted into test cricket. The 30-year-old de Grandhomme was named man-of-the-match for his haul of 7-64 from 29.5 overs and a hard-hit 29, while Raval top-scored with 55 in the first innings then combined with Williamson in an 85-run partnership to guide them to victory. “They were outstanding,” Williamson said. “To see Colin on that surface, it moved around a bit, he was the perfect bowler for it. “Jeet came into international cricket and looked like he had been there for years. He was very calm and stuck to the game plan and reaped the rewards. “To go out and open the batting against a very good bowling attack on a surface that was offering something to the seam bowlers and achieve what he did in the first innings, then in a chase for victory to see that composure again is certainly encouraging going forward.”
The visitors had faced an uphill battle to prolong the test, which had the first day washed out, beyond Sunday having resumed on 129 for seven and with a lead of just 62 runs, with only some strong counter-attacking from pace bowler Sohail Khan (40) pushing the target past 100. “As a professional, as the number two test team in the world we should be better than that,” said Pakistan opener and ODI captain Azhar Ali, who stepped in for post-match interviews after skipper Misbah-ul-Haq returned home due to a family emergency. “We should have put in a better batting show, especially the first innings. It was quite helpful for the bowlers but I think we could have scored more runs which would have helped because on that kind of track you’re always in the game.” The second and final Test starts in Hamilton on Friday Nov 25 in Misbah’s absence, with New Zealand searching for its first series win over Pakistan in 31 years.