New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson hit a fighting half-century to delay leg-spinner Yasir Shah's bid to become the fastest bowler to 200 wickets on the first day of the series-deciding third Test in Abu Dhabi.
Williamson missed out on a 19th Test century but BJ Watling was unbeaten on 42 as New Zealand closed on 229-7, a measured recovery after being reduced to 72-4 by a triple strike from Yasir in the first session.
Yasir began his 33rd Test needing five wickets to become the fastest man to reach the milestone of 200 Test wickets. The record is currently 36 Tests, set 82 years ago by Australian leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett.
Yasir managed 3-62 but was then thwarted by the fifth wicket stand of 104 in 249 balls between Williamson and Watling. He failed to take any more wickets in the last two sessions and still needs another two to hit the 200-mark and claim the record.
Williamson struck seven boundaries but these were the bright points in a day when defence came first. The normally robust and aggressive Kiwi captain curbed his attacking instinct as he attempted to carve out a first innings that might give his side some leverage in the match. The scoring rarely got above two an over.
Watling also dug in and the pair batted right through the afternoon session.
Williamson passed 50 in a Test for the 46th time but he was not able to convert his innings into another hundred. Having reached 89 off 176 balls, he mistimed a clip off Hasan Ali shortly after tea and found a gleeful Asad Shafiq pouching the catch at short midwicket.
Off-spinner Bilal Asif took over from Yasir, claiming Colin de Grandhomme for 20 and Tim Southee for two to finish with 2-57.
But Watling kept one end intact through his patient near-four hour batting, hitting only one boundary in his 180-ball display of self-denial.