Watling played with pristine patience thwarting anything and everything that the Pakistan bowlers threw at him to help his side to a competitive 274 in 116.1 overs. Azhar then followed it up with an equally solid knock after the hosts lost two early wickets as Pakistan ended the second day on 139/1 after 61 overs, still trailing New Zealand by 135 runs. By the time stumps were called for Azhar was unbeaten on 62 (169 balls) and had Asad Shafiq for company on 26 (85 balls).
Resuming on 229/7, the overnight pair of Watling and Will Somerville added an invaluable 45 runs to take New Zealand closer to a par total. Both batsmen showed staunch resistance and grit ensuring they did not throw away their wickets.
Watling battled for over five-and-a-half-hours to record his 16th half-century reaching the landmark with a four off pacer Hassan Ali. Some more good news was in store for the feisty wicket-keeper batsman when on 66 he became only the 14th New Zealand batsman to score 3,000 or more runs in Test cricket, joining an elite list topped by Stephen Fleming who scored 7,172 in 111 Tests.
His partner at the other end, Somerville did not add a single run to his overnight score of 12 but made sure he stood like a rock before Asif picked up all three final wickets to signal an end to New Zealand's innings.
The off-spinner first got rid of Somerville with a delivery that spun from way outside off to outfox the debutant and breach his defence for a 99-ball 12 before having Ajaz Patel (6) caught at forward short leg. Asif then completed his second five-wicket haul in just his fifth Test with the wicket of Boult (1). He finished with impressive figures of 5/65 from 30.1 overs. Watling remained unbeaten on 77 (250 balls) which included five fours.
Pakistan innings started off on the wrong foot with Trent Boult striking in his very first over getting one to shape away from opener Mohammad Hafeez (0) who could only edge it low into the hands of Tim Southee stationed at second slip as New Zealand went into lunch on a high.
The other side of the break too saw Pakistan lose an early wicket with Boult doing further damage. He first hurried Imam-ul-Haq (9) with an excellent bouncer that hit the left-hander flush on the helmet and then followed it up with a full outswinger that caught the opener's outside edge and flew to Southee at second slip who completed his second good catch of the innings.
At 17/2, Pakistan were in desperate need of some stability which they got through Haris Sohail and Azhar. The left and right hand combination troubled the New Zealand bowlers as they struggled to maintain their lines. Both batsmen made sure they rotated the strike at every given chance alongside collecting the odd boundary.
The spinners, Somerville and Patel, maintained to stem the flow of runs but both Sohail and Ali hardly looked under pressure at any stage as they went to tea unscathed with the scoreboard reading 81/2.
The interval, however, came as a blessing in disguise for the visitors with Southee picking up Sohail immediately after to break the 68-run stand. In what can be accorded to a lapse in concentration, the southpaw went hard at a seemingly innocuous delivery outside off stump only to nick it behind to Watling. Sohail's 91-ball vigil which included two fours came to an end on 34.
Azhar and Shafiq then got together and made sure no more wickets were lost in the day. Both batsmen were circumspect in their approach with preservation of their wickets being the focus. Azhar reached his third fifty of the series with a flick behind square and will hope to double it up on Day 3.
For New Zealand, Boult was the pick of the bowlers returning with figures of 2/39 in 14 overs while Southee picked up the other wicket to fall.
Brief scores: New Zealand 274 (Kane Williamson 89, BJ Watling 77*; Bilal Asif 5/65, Yasir Shah 3-75) lead Pakistan 139/3 (Azhar Ali 62, Haris Sohail 34; Trent Boult 2/39) by 135 runs.
First Published: December 4, 2018, 6:59 PM IST