Tempo is a blue-chip asset of test cricket.
You can be snoring beneath the canopy of the latest self-help book the family bought you for Christmas one minute, the next you can’t avert your eyes from the nuances of the spectacle.
New Zealand played a quality third innings to set up the 373-run chase for Pakistan on the fourth day of the first test.
Exhibit A came with a 98-run stand until lunch from Tom Blundell and Tom Latham.
The pair provided a positive, methodical start in the hunt for a winning lead. Both were selective with their shots, but pushed confidently and with regularity into the offside.
Several edges thudded off softly-held bats into the turf in front of the cordon. The lack of success for the visitors was compounded by an attack exhibiting less of the venom seen in the first innings. Yasir Shah also found little of his much-vaunted turn to threaten.
That partnership was eventually broken at 111, the duo’s highest in 11 innings opening together.
Aggression was the mode in the middle session as fan attention diverted from picnic hampers and the answer to seven-down, eight-letters from the morning crossword. The run rate between sessions got an adrenaline injection from 3.27 to 5.29. Intent emerged, and the field morphed accordingly.
Adagio moved to allegro as the metronome started to sweat.
Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, B-J Watling and Mitchell Santner hit out as Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi pitched short to a field consisting of deep backward point, deep gully, third man, long leg, deep backward square leg, square leg (in front of the umpire), mid-wicket, deep mid-wicket and cover.
Blast in front of the wicket at your peril, New Zealand.
The hosts instead cut, hooked and pulled at will with Williamson and Nicholls falling to the strategy and Watling getting run out hunting two.
There was no fear of dismissal or protection of averages in pursuit of a common goal: Get Pakistan in for half-an-hour of action before tea. In a game where averages sometimes get padded in stale draws or benign conditions, this presented a refreshing selflessness.
Tim Southee found Shan Masood’s edge which flew to first slip Ross Taylor in his second over. Trent Boult achieved likewise from the shoulder of Abid Ali’s bat in his first. Both exited for ducks. At four for two after five overs the batting sacrifice had proved invaluable. Momentum was in motion.
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