Azhar, Shafiq tons nudge Pakistan by NZ

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Pakistan New Zealand Cricket

Azhar Ali's 15th Test century helped anchor Pakistan's first innings response against New Zealand

Centuries by Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq look to have strengthened Pakistan's position in the series-deciding third and final cricket Test against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi.

Azhar hit 134 off 297 balls and Shafiq made a splendid 104 off 259 deliveries as Pakistan reached 5-312 at tea on the third day.

The duo featured in a 201-run fourth-wicket stand before perishing against the spinners in the second session as Pakistan led New Zealand by 38 runs with five wickets still in hand.

Babar Azam was unbeaten on 14 and captain Sarfraz Ahmed was not out on 1 at the break.

New Zealand debutant Will Somerville (1-60) had a moment to savour in his 22nd when Azhar top-edged a sweep shot to give the 34-year-old his first Test wicket.

Azhar's 15th test hundred and the first against New Zealand included 12 boundaries.

Shafiq completed his century with a single off Somerville but fell leg before wicket off left-arm bowler Ajaz Patel (1-79) in the next over.

Shafiq's 12th test century included 14 fours as he used his feet well against the spinners and played some delightful cut shots against seamers.

Pakistan resumed on Wednesday at 3-139 and enjoyed a productive opening session.

Earlier, resuming on 3-139, Pakistan had a productive first session.

Azhar, 62 overnight, reached his century inside the opening hour from 220 balls as New Zealand struggled to make inroads with the new ball or their two-pronged spin attack.