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New Zealand's Sinclair takes game to Pakistan


CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, March 15 (AFP) - New Zealand's embattled top order Thursday showed some steel on the opening day of the second Test against Pakistan but late wickets blunted their edge.

An unbeaten century by Mathew Sinclair helped the hosts to 284 for five after they were sent into bat at Christchurch's Jade Stadium.

He and opener Matthew Bell, who rode his luck to make a confident 75, provided the backbone to the innings before three wickets tumbled late in the day for 34 runs to let Pakistan back into the match.

Sinclair scored 150 against South Africa in Port Elizabeth six Test innings ago but has under-performed since and took some of the criticism for New Zealand's 299-run loss in the first Test in Auckland.

But he rebuffed his critics with a chanceless 245-minute, 161-ball innings which included 15 fours and a six.

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said he would have batted first had the coin flipped his way and was satisfied with the day's work despite the late flurry of wickets.

Fleming was run out for 32, while Nathan Astle was dismissed for six and the recalled Grant Bradburn for nought.

"It was a pretty good day. It's in line with somewhere we wanted to be at the start of the day," Fleming said.

Sinclair's innings drew special praise.

"It's all or nothing with him but he's a fantastic player. I don't think there's a cleaner striker of the ball who I've played with."

After Bell and fellow opener Mark Richardson survived a tense early period from Waqar Younis and Mohammad Sami, the home side appeared in little danger.

Bell had his first life in just the third over when Younis Khan dropped him at second slip. They were 75 without loss at lunch but New Zealand lost their first wicket when Richardson was bowled by Saqlain Mushtaq's "mystery" ball for 46.

Bell and Richardson put on 102 in 158 minutes, New Zealand's first century opening stand since November 1999.

Bell batted confidently but had some good fortune, a welcome change after being given out caught off his pad and then run out in the first Test.

Aside from the missed chance on eight he looked leg before wicket to Saqlain on 49 then on 54 he edged Younis to wicketkeeper Moin Khan only for umpire Dave Quested to rule not out.

His second test 50 came up in 169 minutes off 114 balls, with all but two of his the runs scored on the legside.

But on 75 he pushed forward at Mushtaq and Faisal Iqbal snapped up the bat-pad chance at short leg. Bell faced 180 balls and batted for just over four hours, hitting 11 fours.

Sinclair and Fleming then added a bright 85 in 93 minutes, with Fleming surviving a run-out attempt on 18 before being beaten by a throw on 32 when trying for a quick single.

Sinclair passed 50 off 86 balls and stepped it up late in the day, moving into the 90s with four rapid boundaries off Sami.

His third Test century came after he lofted Waqar through mid wicket, but he then had to look on as Astle and Bradburn departed cheaply to edges behind off Waqar and Fazle Akbar respectively.

Mushtaq toiled away throughout, bowling unchanged during the middle session and ending with figures of two for 64 off 28 overs.

Akbar, one of three changes made by Pakistan, who also included key batsmen Inzamam-ul-Haq and Ijaz Ahmed, bowled well late in the day as he and Waqar shared the other wickets.







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