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New Zealand in good position over Pakistan thanks to double century

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, March 16 (AFP) - Opener Mathew Sinclair blasted a superb unbeaten double century to leave New Zealand in a commanding position on day two of the second Test against Pakistan Friday.

Sinclair's test cricket career is only 21 innings old but he already holds a place among New Zealand's elite batsmen.

The 25-year-old topped 200 for the second time in his test career in just his 12th match with a chanceless 204 at the Jade Stadium. It helped New Zealand rack up 476 and by stumps Pakistan were 65 for two in reply on a dream batting surface.

Sinclair became just the second New Zealand player -- the other being Glenn Turner -- to twice pass 200 in the test arena. Sinclair scored 214 on his debut against the West Indies.

It was the ninth-highest New Zealand test innings, and it beat Martin Crowe's record score against Pakistan of 174 scored 12 years ago in Wellington.

Sinclair's innings lasted 20 minutes short of nine hours, he faced 348 balls and there was barely anything resembling a chance.

He hit 27 fours to all parts of the ground and two sixes, both off Saqlain Mushtaq, one over wide long on and the second over deep square leg to bring up 200.

It was his 10th first-class century and third in test cricket. Seven of those have been scores of 150-plus.

Sinclair acknowledged the pressure he had been under since his 150 against South Africa in Port Elizabeth in December. Since then he was dropped from the one-day side and scored nine, 18, 34 and 10 in tests at home.

"There was media pressure, but they've got a right to say what they've got to say and it was just something I tried to forget about," Sinclair said. He said the innings wouldn't quite rate beside his debut 214 in December 1999.

"I can't take that 214 away from me, it was a great day and big crowd. I was happy just to get there today."

But for a while there was doubt as to whether Sinclair would reach the milestone.

When Adam Parore departed for 46 Sinclair was on 173 with No 9 Daryl Tuffey walking out to bat. He was still 19 short when Chris Drum walked to the crease and four short when No 11 Chris Martin arrived.

Martin somehow survived three balls from Waqar Younis, one which grazed his off stump, and in the next over Sinclair lifted Saqlain into the No 3 stand to a standing ovation from the disappointing crowd.

New Zealand began the day on 284 for five, with Sinclair on 100, and while Pakistan captain Moin Khan rotated his bowlers they were never close to dislodging him.

Sinclair and Craig McMillan added 45 in 66 minutes and by lunch the total had mounted to 367 for six with Sinclair on 145.

He and Parore added 101 runs in 136 minutes as the bowlers tired and the fielding crumbled.

Parore was dismissed for the first time in five test innings when Australian umpire Daryl Harper gave him out leg before wicket for 46.

Tuffey lasted a valuable 33 minutes for his highest test score of 13, taking two fearful body blows from Waqar, then Drum stayed the same length of time to get Sinclair within sight of his milestone.

Waqar, Fazle Akbar and Saqlain each took three wickets, with Saqlain toiling away again for 48 overs to end with three for 134.

Akbar was earlier caught by television cameras running his hand through his hair then polishing the ball, but there were no complaints laid by match officials.

Pakistan had to face 22 overs in the late afternoon sun and New Zealand had immediate success.

Left-hander Imran Farhat skied a soft catch to mid off in Martin's first over then the recalled Ijaz Ahmed, after lofting Tuffey over square leg for six, stood on his stumps to give Drum his first test wicket with just his second ball.

New Zealand blew the chance to have Pakistan in deep trouble when Nathan Astle dropped Inzamam-ul-Haq at second slip off Martin with the total at 40 for two.

Inzamam was unbeaten on 26 with youngster Faisal Iqbal on 22 at the close.

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