Cricket 2023: Pakistan Vs New Zealand, Bad light draw, proof Test cricket is killing itself

Pakistan’s last pair Naseem Shah and Abrar Ahmed survived 21 balls in fading light Friday while Sarfaraz Ahmed hit a fighting century as bad light brought the match to a anticlimactic draw.

The match was on a knife-edge with three overs remaining as New Zealand needed the one wicket, while Pakistan needed 15 runs.

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Incredibly, the second last over had seen a six and a four and spinners were operating from either end.

But the bad light call reignited the debate over the bad light rule as both sides wanted to continue, only to be overruled by the umpires.

New Zealand were in sight of a series-clinching victory after dismissing Sarfaraz for a career-best 118 with 39 balls remaining in the match.

But as dusk settled, Naseem scored 15 and Ahmed seven as Pakistan made it to 9/304 chasing 319.

The result sees the two-match series ended 0-0 after the first Test – also in Karachi – ended in a draw, depriving New Zealand of their first series win in Pakistan for 53 years.

Speaking on Fox Cricket about the baffling end to what had been a gripping Test match, Isa Guha, Mark Howard and Kerry O’Keefe slammed the umpires’ decision.

Isha Guha said: “Wasn’t the last scoring shot a six as well?”

“Correct,” Howard confirmed. “Both sides wanted to stay out there because they both thought they were a chance to win.”

“So the umpires pulled them off?” Guha said. “I can’t believe it. The game doesn’t help itself. You’d be absolutely furious as a spectator.”

Kerry O’Keeffe said it was: “another nail in the coffin of Test cricket.

“We need results. The juggernaut of T20 and the IPL, it’s getting bigger, it’s not getting smaller. They played five days – it was theatre, it was drama going down. One team should have won and one team should have lost. And I think they were prepared for that.”

“It could have been a tied Test,” Howard added. “And we’ll never know.”

O’Keeffe continued: “And if you’re at the ground, if you’re watching that drama take place, you are totally engrossed it in. The umpires say ‘oh, that’s time, we’re off’.”

Law 2.8.2 in the Laws of Cricket state: “The Umpires shall immediately suspend play, or not allow play to start or to recommence, if either umpire considers that the conditions of ground, weather or light, or any other circumstances are either dangerous or unreasonable.”

However, they can offer the bowling team the chance to continue with spinners in some circumstances, a rule which former South African captain AB de Villiers hit out at as favouring the fielding team.

“Another little grey area in the rule book imo. If the fielding team is told to bowl spin because of bad light and they take the option, they should be forced to finish the overs with spin until the Umps call it off, cause they can bring seam on at any time to finish the match,” de Villiers wrote on Twitter.

“If the batting team manages to get it down to 5 or so runs required, the fielding team can just opt to bring on a seamer. Not fair imo.”

Former New Zealand star Scott Styris wrote: “Both teams had a chance of winning and we come off the field with 3 overs to go.

“Exhibit A of why test cricket is in trouble.

“Well done both teams for battling all the way.”

The Herald Sun’s weekend sports editor Jamie Tate posted: “Cricket shoots itself in the foot again. @TheRealPCB needs 15 runs to win. @BLACKCAPS need one wicket. Three overs left. Spinners bowling. Lights are on. And umpires say light is no good. A draw. An opportunity for a special moment has been missed. #PAKvNZ”.

Sarfaraz, whose fourth Test century – and first in eight years – Pakistan on course for a fighting draw.

“It’s a funny game and that makes Test cricket exciting,” captain Babar Azam said, under whom Pakistan failed to win any of eight home Tests this year.

“Our plan was to chase the target for a win but the match was going towards them at one time and towards us the next moment and finally it ended in a draw.”

New Zealand skipper Southee termed Sarfaraz as the difference.

“It came down to the last moments, great end to 10 days of pretty tough toil,” Southee said.

“We got ourselves to push for a win, but the way Sarfaraz played sort of took the game away from us.”

Pakistan were staring at defeat at lunch with the total on 125-5, but Sarfaraz led the fight back during a sixth wicket stand of 123 in three hours with Saud Shakeel who made 32.

Pakistan reached 179-5 at tea, needing a further 140 runs in the 31 overs – a point from where Sarfaraz sped up the run rate by smashing three boundaries and a six off spinner Bracewell before driving pacer Matt Henry for two to reach his hundred.

But once Pakistan lost Sarfaraz, Hasan Ali (five) and Salman in the space of 14 runs, the target went out of reach.

The previous best winning chase in a Test in Pakistan was 314 by the home team against Australia in Karachi in 1994.

— with AFP

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