At stumps, New Zealand were at 286/3, trailing Pakistan by only 11 runs, with two well-set batsmen at the crease.
Yet it was Pakistan's bowlers who called the shots early in the day. Openers Tom Latham and Tom Blundell were able to grind out a fifty-run partnership in the face of quality bowling, but both fell in successive overs. Blundell was trapped in front by Faheem Ashraf and had to depart for 16 after a successful review by Pakistan. Shaheen Afridi then had Latham poking to second slip, where Shan Masood fumbled the ball before Haris Sohail dived over from first slip to complete the catch.
💯 The first centurion of 2021!— ICC (@ICC) January 4, 2021
An incredible innings from Kane Williamson. He slammed four fours in an over to go from 78 to 94 🤯
24th Test hundred for the New Zealand skipper 🙌#NZvPAK pic.twitter.com/rvz9NFR0Ls
Ross Taylor was dismissed after a spell of testing bowling by Mohammad Abbas, who had the batsman playing at as many deliveries as possible with a probing line on or around off stump. He induced the edge with one that left Taylor, and Masood made no mistake at second slip on this instance.
Nicholls could've been back in the hut for three when Afridi had his caught behind superbly by Rizwan, only for the third umpire to announce that the left-arm quick had overstepped.
After that reprieve, Nicholls and Williamson adopted a cautious approach to try and blunt the effects of the new ball. Batting progressively became easier as the pair bode its time in the middle. Both batsmen started upping the scoring rate midway into the second session. Williamson, in particular, looked a lot more fluent in the third session and soon brought up his fifty. Nicholls followed him to the milestone not long after.
In the 70th over of the innings, Williamson struck four boundaries off Naseem Shah. He clipped two straighter ones to the mid-wicket fence, edged one over the slip cordon and played a sublime on-drive to close the over out for 16 runs.
Two overs later, he pulled Faheem Ashraf for four to reach 99 before nurdling one to the fine-leg fence to bring up yet another Test hundred – his first at Hagley Oval in 14 innings.
Nicholls too looked in much better rhythm after passing fifty and complemented the captain by ticking the scoreboard over. The two batsmen appear to have developed a great mutual understanding in recent years, with the performance on Monday being their fourth century partnership.
Pakistan did have their chances but weren't quite able to grab them, with fortune not favouring them either. Notably, Williamson offered a chance at point just after passing his century but was put down by Masood. Only a little while later, a brilliant direct hit seemed to have caught him short of his crease, but replays showed that only one side of the bail was dislodged before he made it inside the crease. To make matters worse for the visitors, Nicholls was put down on 86 by Mohammad Rizwan, much to bowler Afridi's dismay.
Towards the end of day's play, Nicholls appeared to show signs of discomfort in his calf. After treatment from the physio, he continued batting on but looked visibly hindered. The cause for the discomfort might be New Zealand's only concern going into day three as their position in the game now seems extremely comfortable.