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Asif announces return as New Zealand struggle

cricket Updated: Nov 24, 2009 13:01 IST

AFP
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Pakistan paceman Mohammad Asif celebrated his international cricket recall with three vital wickets to have New Zealand at 276-6 at stumps on the first day of the first Test in Dunedin on Tuesday.

Only a fielding lapse denied him a fourth wicket as New Zealand struggled through the first day after being sent into bat in reasonable conditions.

Daniel Vettori escaped a golden duck in one of three dropped catches that proved costly for Pakistan and allowed New Zealand to build two solid partnerships and recover from a first-ball dismissal.

Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill staged a 117-run rescue stand for the third wicket, while Vettori and Brendon McCullum had put on an unbroken 65 for the seventh wicket.

At stumps Vettori was on 40 and McCullum on 25 after successfully appealing against an lbw dismissal on the penultimate ball of the day.

But around them the New Zealand batting had a familiar air of frailty as Asif posted three for 76 off 24 overs. Mohammad Aamir had two for 62 and Umar Gul, although wicketless, bowled seven maidens in his first nine overs.

Asif, who arrived in New Zealand vowing to repair a promising career that had been stalled by injury and drug scandals, took wickets in the first and last sessions of the day.

But it was the 17-year-old Mohammad Aamir who took the early plaudits after Mohammad Yousuf won the toss and put New Zealand into bat.

Aamir justified the decision with the opening delivery when he yorked Tim McIntosh with a ball that ricocheted from the toe of the bat to the leg stump.

Asif followed in the sixth over with the wicket of Daniel Flynn who, on eight from two boundaries, played down the wrong line and sent an inside edge to wicketkeeper Kamram Akmal to leave New Zealand on two for 27.

Taylor and Guptill dragged New Zealand out of the mire in a defiant 44-over stand that ended when Guptill fell for 60, his maiden Test half-century.

He survived two chances on 26, with Imran Farhat missing a regulation catch at first slip off Umar Gul, and then Gul misjudged a chance on the fine-leg boundary that landed just over the rope for six.

Guptill was eventually undone when he top-edged Aamir to Fawad Alam running backwards at square leg.

The 25-year-old Taylor, now recognised as the senior New Zealand batsman with Jesse Ryder sidelined by injury, soldiered on posting 11 boundaries and a six as he moved in sight of his fifth Test century.

But on 94 he attempted an expansive drive off a wide delivery from Saeed Ajmal and edged the ball to Farhat whose troublesome fingers for once held on to the chance.

It was the cue for Asif to make his mark as he bowled Peter Fulton for 29 and in his next over had Grant Elliott caught behind by Kamran for eight.

He was denied a fourth wicket when Vettori was dropped by Farhat off the first ball he faced in what could be a crucial error for Pakistan, as it ignited the second New Zealand revival.

Because of the University Oval's history of assisting the quick bowlers, both sides have stacked their line-up with batsmen and have only three pacemen and a spinner in their bowling armoury.

New Zealand, who have not beaten Pakistan in a home series since 1985, are officially the visiting team in this three-match series after refusing to play in Pakistan because of security fears.