New Zealand finally reached the top of the ICC Trest rankings for the first time since the inception of the concept, following a dramatic win over Pakistan in the first Test of the two-match series at the Bay Oval on Wednesday.
Although the margin of victory was 101 runs, it reflected little on the valiant batting efforts of the visitors on the final day. They started at 71 for three with still 301 runs behind. New Zealand inflicted further damage with an early wicket to consolidate their chances in the first Test, but a resilient 150-plus-run stand between centurion Fawad Alam and skipper Mohammad Rizwan showed a glimmer of hope of a great escape at the Bay Oval.
The New Zealand bowlers mostly bowled well and there were many occasions in both sessions when the ball beat the bat, grazed the stumps or didn’t carry to a fielder.
But Fawad and Rizwan batted with great patience and concentration, eliminating dangerous shots as much as possible while accumulating runs, slowly but steadily.
The pitch at Mount Maunganui's Bay Oval has flattened out as would be expected on the fifth day. There was a little variable bounce from cracking or from footmarks but little to disconcert batsmen with the application showed by the Pakistan fifth-wicket pair.
However, an hour after the tea break, both men departed leaving New Zealand with only the tail end to deal with. Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi, who was hit hard on the helmet by Neil Wagner and checked on twice by the physio over concussion concern, showed enough grit over eight overs before a lapse of concentration from the former saw the hosts escape with a win.
The win takes them to the top of the ICC Test Rankings with 117 ratings. They earlier stood fractionally behind Australia after a clean sweep against Australia. But their neighbours lost in Melbourne on Tuesday giving the opportunity for the Black Caps to take the top spot.
(with AP inputs)