Blackcaps v Pakistan: New captain Tim Southee reflects on 'exciting' draw, after 10 days of toil at Karachi

The standing joke among non-cricketing sports fans around the world is how you can possibly play a game for five days and still not achieve a result.

That conundrum strikes at the very heart of test cricket's battle for relevance in a sport that has probably won more fans through shortened, more attractive formats in recent years.

For the purists, New Zealand's drawn series against Pakistan at Karachi, described as "exciting" by new Blackcaps captain Tim Southee, probably represents the ultimate tease after - in this case - 10 days of torture on a pitch that gave little away.

Bad light ended the second test, with the tourists needing just one wicket and the home side chasing 15 more runs for victory, after a dogged century from Pakistan wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed on the final day.

Sarfaraz Ahmed plays a shot against New Zealand
Sarfaraz Ahmed plays a shot against New Zealand. Photo credit: Getty Images

A week earlier, bad light also halted New Zealand's pursuit just 77 runs short.

To many, the outcome perfectly represents the often-futile nature of test cricket, but in his first series as skipper, Southee remains philosophical about his team's inability to finish the job.

"You play to win and you play to win test matches," he reflected. "Sarfaraz was outstanding, not only today, but throughout the whole series.

"He came out an played positive cricket, he played busy cricket and for someone who hasn't played [tests] for four years, credit to him.

"You toil away for such a long period of time and come down to one ball, it's exciting. It was a great finish to what's been tough going over the last 10 days in two matches here.

"Disappointing to walk away - and I'm sure Pakistan are the same - you toil away for 10 days in a drawn series, but there's a lot of good cricket played amoung those 10 days."

With results resting on a knife-edge, Southee's leadership - albeit, with previous skipper Kane Williamson in his ear - has come under scrutiny, especially over the last couple of days, as New Zealand manoeuvred for victory.

Leading by 41 runs after the first innings, the Blackcaps declared their second at 277/5 on the fourth evening and chipped out two wickets in three overs before stumps to set up the final day.

"We felt the surface was still a pretty good surface, if you wanted to just bat, but tough if you wanted to score runs, so it was a bit of a balancing act to get the right amount of overs and the right amount of runs, " explained Southee.

"To get that little dip at them last night and get them two down was a great start."

Another key juncture came midway through Pakistan's 319-run chase, when Southee delayed taking the new ball to slow his rivals' progress.

"We found with the two batsmen still in - Sarfaraz and [Agha] Salman - runs could have come quickly," he said. "That's a build-up of the way Sarafraz played during the day, which delayed us taking the new ball.

"If he hadn't played as positive as he had during the day, we could have taken the new ball with a lot more runs to play with. Again, it was a bit of a balancing act.

"If you take the new ball, it may come off the bat a bit easier, so we were trying to manage getting through that partnership - which we did - and we were able to take that new ball and get another couple [of wickets].

Kane Williamson takes a catch to dismiss Sarafraz Ahmed
Kane Williamson takes a catch to dismiss Sarafraz Ahmed. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It's a fine line and you go on gut feel on what you think is right at the time, along with other leaders in the group."

New Zealand had not played test cricket in Pakistan since 2002, when a bomb blast near the team's Karachi hotel forced an early end to their tour. Their scheduled 2021 return was abandoned over security concerns on the eve of their tour-opener, sparking outrage in the cricket-mad nation.

"It's a tough place when you come anywhere in the subcontinent from New Zealand and we got ourselves in a position to win both test matches," said Southee. "It's test cricket, it's not easy, but it was great learning, not only for me, but for the whole side to experience a place where we haven't played test cricket before.

"It's a great experience and I'm sure the guys will continue to learn as players."

New Zealand and Pakistan now contest a three-match one-day series, beginning Monday.