Wellington: Captain Daniel Vettori has scored his sixth Test century to lead New Zealand's recovery on the second day of the second cricket Test but Pakistan strongly re-asserted themselves before stumps.
Vettori's 110 steered New Zealand from 180-6 on the first day to 356 all out in its first innings after it had won the toss and batted. At stumps, Pakistan were 134-2 with Azhar Ali 62 not out, while Taufeeq Umar made 70 before falling to the final ball of the day.
The 132-run second-wicket partnership between Taufeeq and Azhar balanced the Test and diminished New Zealand's chances of levelling the two-match series which Pakistan leads 1-0.
Earlier, Vettori shared a critical 138-run seventh wicket partnership with wicketkeeper Reece Young (57) to guide New Zealand to a competitive score on Sunday after Pakistan gained the upper hand on the first day.
His efforts and those of Ross Taylor who made 78 on Saturday and Young, who reached his first half century in his second Test, gave New Zealand its largest total of the series after scores of 275 and 110 in the first test at Hamilton.
But the combination of Taufeeq and Azhar weakened New Zealand's grip on the game and made it unlikely for the hosts to capture the 18 wickets it needs on the last three days to win the match and square the series.
Only six wickets fell on Sunday on a hard day for bowlers from both sides who contended with winds of almost gale force.
New Zealand needed to penetrate deeper into the Pakistan middle order in the 50 overs available to it before stumps but after Tim Southee removed Mohammad Hafeez in the second over of the innings — mistakenly judged caught behind — its bowlers struggled and didn't achieve a second breakthrough until Vettori removed Taufeeq with the final ball of the day.
Vettori set defensive fields for most of the final session as Taufeeq and Azhar's partnership grew, handing back the initiative to the visitors.
Vettori resumed on 38 on Sunday and Young on 28 in a partnership already worth 66 runs, the second-largest of the innings. They negotiated the crucial first hour, as Umar Gul bowled with the gale behind him and with the second new ball which was only 10 overs old.
Vettori reached his half century in 121 minutes from 80 balls with five fours and Young posted his, in the third innings of his test career, in 199 minutes, from 140 balls with his sixth boundary.
Young was out 10 minutes before lunch, caught by wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal off Tanvir Ahmed, giving Akmal his sixth catch of the innings and his third off Tanvir.
Vettori was 79 not out at the interval and lost two partners before reaching his century. Tim Southee (1) and Brent Arnel (1) were both out cheaply and Vettori was still 96 when the last man, Chris Martin, came to the crease.
Martin is a notoriously mediocre batsman who only surpassed 100 runs in test in the 60th match of his career at Hamilton last week. His appearance added a note of tension to the final moments of New Zealand innings but he managed to survive, even to hit a boundary, until Vettori reached his deserved hundred from 148 balls, in 226 minutes and with nine fours and a six.
Pakistan suffered the early blow of losing Hafeez before Taufeeq and Azhar stabilized its innings.
In a bizarre incident, Taufeeq was caught behind by Young off Vettori on 34 and Pakistan 76-1 but in the howling gale the hosts were unable to hear the knick and didn't appeal.
Taufeeq reached his half century from 110 balls and Azhar his from 112 balls with six fours and a six.