With New Zealand losing two early wickets in the day, and the side firmly behind the eight ball, Williamson and Nicholls dug in to carve an unbeaten 212-run stand for the fifth wicket to help their side attain a crucial 198-run lead. Eventually, those were the only two wickets that Pakistan could manage in the entire day with both batsmen making the bowlers toil hard.
By the time stumps were called for, the visitors had reached 272/4 in 104 overs with Williamson 139 (282 balls) not out and Nicholls unbeaten on an equally delightful 90 (243 balls) to set up a riveting final day's play.
Resuming on 26/2, New Zealand's day started off on the wrong foot with Yasir Shah claiming Test wicket No. 200 as he trapped nightwatchman William Somerville leg before wicket for 4 in just his third over the day. With that, he also became the fastest cricketer to take 200 wickets in the longest format of the game. He achieved the milestone in his 33rd Test breaking Australian leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett's record of 36 Tests set against South Africa in Johannesburg in 1936.
Ross Taylor, coming in at No.5 then started off in blazing fashion carting Shaheen Afridi for three fours in an over. However, the debutant had the last laugh when Taylor went for a shot too many only to end up top-edging the pacer straight into the hands of Bilal Asif at deep square leg.
As the visitors slipped to 60/4 Williamson, who looked solid as ever at one end desperately needed someone to stand alongside him. Nicholls survived a few close shouts including two close DRS referrals which went in his favour but held on. Williamson meanwhile carried on with his excellent form to record a 29th half-century in Tests making sure New Zealand went into lunch without any further hiccups at 112/4 with a slender lead of 38.
The second session of the day was all New Zealand hands down. On a surface which was aiding massive turn and bounce for the spinners both Williamson and Nicholls buckled down and applied themselves with esteemed precision. They made sure to wait for the loose balls rather than manufacture shots and did that with aplomb.
As the lead slowly swelled there was desperation clearly visible in the Pakistan camp as they used up both their DRS reviews by the 43rd over but to no avail. Surprisingly, Sarfraz Ahmed opted to not go for his two spinners in tandem for long stretches and rather rung in the changes having spin from one end and pace from the other. Williamson got a life when on 80 he smashed a pull to Yasir at square leg who put a tough chance down. In all this, the New Zealand captain played some breathtaking shots - a classical flick wide of midwicket off Bilal standing out.
Nicholls, having battled hard and long in the first session too opened up and soon got to his half-century - eighth in Tests - with a push down to mid-on. It was Williamson's turn then to raise his bat aloft as he raced through the nineties with a glorious from-foot drive before crashing pacer Hasan Ali to the cover boundary for his 12th four to complete a much deserved 19th Test century.
Having started the day on the back foot, New Zealand, courtesy an undefeated century stand between the duo who added a further 87 runs in the second session went into tea on a high at 199/4 with a lead of 125.
The first hour into the final session too belonged to the visitors as a tired Pakistan bowling unit began erring in length. Yasir had another opportunity to get rid of Williamson on 106 this time off his own bowling but he fluffed a tough chance.
As the lead continued to grow Pakistan increasingly started to look flat on the field. Yasir was pummelled for three fours by Nicholls while another misfield cost the hosts four runs more. Such was Pakistan's luck on the day that even some of the false shots fell in no man's land.
The duo was more circumspect in the last hour and ensured they did not lose focus as they went to stumps unscathed.
Brief scores: New Zealand 274 & 272/4 (Kane Williamson 139*, Henry Nicholls 90*; Shaheen Afridi 2/55) lead Pakistan 348 (Azhar Ali 134, Asad Shafiq 104; William Somerville 4-75) by 198 runs.
Henry NichollsKane WilliamsonPakistan vs New Zealandpakistan vs new zealand 2018Shaheen Afridiwilliam somervilleYasir Shah
First Published: December 6, 2018, 7:03 PM IST