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Nicholls and Watling defy Pakistan, NZ leads by 126 runs

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Henry Nicholls and B.J. Watling defied Pakistan to increase New Zealand’s lead to 126 runs on the third day of the first test on Sunday.

Nicholls completed a patient half century before tea and was batting on 51 off 138 balls while Watling was not out on 43 off 111 deliveries with New Zealand reaching 200-4.

The pair came together after Hasan Ali (3-30) struck twice before lunch with New Zealand just 34 runs ahead.

They batted resolutely throughout the mid-session against seam and spin to raise an unbeaten 92-run fifth-wicket stand in a wicketless session.

Nicholls survived an lbw appeal on 44 off leg-spinner Yasir Shah (1-85) when Pakistan opted for an ultimately unsuccessfully television referral before the left-hander raised his fifty that featured three boundaries.

Earlier, Hasan’s twin blows in five deliveries toppled New Zealand’s top order as Pakistan reduced the visitors to 108-4.

Watling survived the last over before lunch when he successfully reversed an lbw decision against him off Bilal Asif’s offspin as the television replays showed the ball would have missed the leg stump.

Hasan used the reverse swing with perfection by nipping Ross Taylor (19) plumb leg before wicket. Four balls later Jeet Raval’s (46) resistance finally ended when he edged the right-arm fast bowler behind as New Zealand slipped to 108-4.

Left-handed Raval was aggressive against Shah when New Zealand resumed on 56-1 and quickly wiped off the first innings deficit.

Raval used his feet well against Shah by hitting three boundaries in the leg-spinner’s first two overs. However, captain Safraz Ahmed persisted with Shah and the leg-spinner finally got the breakthrough.

Kane Williamson (37) added 10 to his overnight score of 27 before Shah bowled the New Zealand skipper off a delivery that moved enough and tipped the off stump bail to break the 86-run second wicket stand.

Taylor was also dominant against Shah by smashing three fours in the leg-spinner’s one over that included two meticulous cuts and one over mid-wicket.

Hasan’s twin strikes in his fourth over of the day pegged back New Zealand’s progress before Nicholls and Watling led the visitors’ recovery in the second session that yielded 66 runs without further damage.

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