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Guptill, O'Brien Inspire Hope For NZ

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Fuseworks Media
Guptill, O'Brien Inspire Hope For NZ

By Chris Barclay of NZPA

Napier, Dec 14 NZPA - Martin Guptill revelled in his surprise change of job description before one of New Zealand's frontline bowlers added a potential twist to third cricket test against Pakistan at McLean Park here today.

An absorbing penultimate day was bookended by Guptill's first test wicket just three balls into the day and a retirement-bound Iain O'Brien's removal of Pakistan's mainstay Mohammad Yousuf during a rain-interrupted final session.

Yousuf's demise for 89 two overs after play restarted following an hour-long rain delay has offered New Zealand an opportunity to push for victory -- providing Guptill's exploits can be replicated tomorrow.

Until Yousuf walked at 7.35pm after edging O'Brien to Brendon McCullum a draw appeared the likely outcome of the series decider.

But his departure left New Zealand scenting a possible win, with precocious teenager Umar Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq now assuming responsibility for making the game safe for the tourists.

Pakistan were 347 for four at the close, holding an overall lead of just 99 runs, with

Umar unbeaten on 48 and Misbah on four.

Earlier, Guptill's alarming removal of both Pakistan openers with his innocuous offspin provided the ideal platform for the hosts.

Pakistan began today on 128 without loss and needing another 120 to ensure New Zealand bat last on a wearing pitch.

Batting time was the top priority -- and a task surprisingly beyond openers Salman Butt and Imran Farhat considering the determination they displayed over 56 overs yesterday.

Guptill, a specialist batsman, proved an inspired choice to open the bowling although his credentials barely warranted the responsibility.

Rarely required to bowl for his Auckland club side and with only a solitary wicket to show from 3-1/2 years at first-class level, Guptill opened his test bowling stats with two overs before stumps yesterday in a bid to buy a wicket with his dollies.

Instead, the purchase was made with his third ball today when Butt, on 66, patted a return catch back to him.

Farhat sent a full toss in the same direction when on 61 and within 25 minutes two foundation stones were gone for the addition of 18 runs.

However, any hope of specialist spinner Daniel Vettori harboured of matching or exceeding the part-timer's deeds were dashed by Yousuf and Faisal Iqbal.

Together they added 128 for the third wicket in 52.4 overs, a sluggish accumulation that ate up time and eventually poked the tourists in front.

Iqbal, who registered his 1000th run of a sporadic test career when on 40, proceeded to complete his eighth test half-century, thanks to Ross Taylor shelling a regulation catch at slip off O'Brien when the right-hander was on 48.

Taylor atoned for his lapse when Iqbal was on 67 as Chris Martin's hostile spell before tea found reward.

A bullish Umar then arrived to threaten to a momentum shift and the 19-year-old's audacious strokeplay could tomorrow either bat Pakistan into a place of safety or his early departure could give New Zealand renewed heart.

He lived dangerously today, whipping Daryl Tuffey close of Martin at mid on before getting off the mark by slotting a length ball for six over mid wicket.

Umar was scoring at a run-a-ball to 24 then heeded the advice of elder statesman Yousuf, who begged him to calm down.

He then took 60 balls to double his score, and not all of his shots were played convincingly.

Yousuf, who made one of four Pakistani ducks in their first innings, was never likely to end his tour with a pair although he ran the risk of being run out on 12 when a risky single to Guptill was misfielded for a split second before the stumps were broken. He survived another near miss on 69.

Otherwise Yousuf was a study in concentration, the 35-year-old taking 117 balls to construct his 31st test half-century.

It included four fours and a six alone off Vettori, who ended the day with none for 60 off 39 overs.

 

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