Tributes and symbolic gestures honouring Phillip Hughes have flowed around the world since news of the 25-year-old’s tragic death broke on Thursday afternoon, few more poignant than those witnessed during the third Test between New Zealand and Pakistan in Sharjah.
Play was abandoned on Thursday and the match extended by a day, while the Test almost did not proceed at all with the Black Caps side, in particular, grief-stricken.
Both teams laid their bats and caps against the fence – where they remained for the rest of the match – as a mark of respect for Hughes, while a minute’s silence was observed before the second day’s play; several Kiwi players were visibly upset as they emerged from their huddle.
The New Zealanders had also scrawled the initials ‘P.H.’ in pen under the emblem on their shirts.
But what was undoubtedly one of the most sombre days of Test cricket they will play in their careers was also, performance-wise, among the most remarkable all-round performances the inconsistent Black Caps have ever produced abroad.
Pakistan resumed at 3-281 on a pitch offering little, but New Zealand had them all out for 351 before lunch. Spinner Mark Craig was the chief destroyer, claiming six of the remaining wickets to finish with a career-best 7-94 – the second-best figures ever produced in the UAE.
Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum, a former teammate of Hughes in the NSW side, then produced an extraordinary innings, bludgeoning the Pakistani attack to all parts of the ground. He took just 30 balls to reach his half-century – one short of teammate Tim Southee’s New Zealand record for fastest Test 50 – and brought up his ton in 78 balls, the quickest Test century ever by a New Zealander.
On day 3, McCullum brought up his double-century, finally out for 202 off 188 balls, including 21 fours and 11 sixes. He and Kane Williamson, who eventually made 192, smashed the record for New Zealand’s biggest-ever second-wicket stand, setting the new mark at 297.
The records did not stop there, though, as Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Mark Craig and Tim Southee brought up half-centuries. The Kiwis recorded their highest-ever Test total, all out for 690 after 143 pulsating overs.
The Black Caps also beat the all-time Test record for most sixes in an innings, clearing the fence 22 times to smash the previous mark of 17, scored by Australia against Zimbabwe in 2003.
New Zealand quickly set about wrapping up the Test after their mammoth innings finished early on day 4, with Trent Boult picking up three wickets before lunch with an outstanding exhibition of seam bowling.
Spinner Craig dominated after the resumption, claiming three scalps – including last man out Rahat Ali – to secure 10 wickets for the match, the first player to do so in the UAE. Combined with his fine effort with the bat, Craig pipped McCullum for man-of-the-match honours.
The long-suffering, poor-travelling New Zealanders had wrapped up a victory by an innings and 80 runs over a Pakistan side that was equally dominant in wiping the floor with Australia and whipping the Black Caps in the first Test. After a hard-fought draw in the second Test, the result squared the series at 1-1, and represented just New Zealand’s third away win in a Test against Pakistan.
Although two more days had passed since the emotional second day of the Test, it was a poignant end to the match, Hughes’ passing still very much at the forefront of the players’ minds. The Black Caps’ landmark success was secondary to honouring the beloved Australian batsman’s memory.
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) November 28, 2014