Between them, with a determined backup cast headed by Henry Nicholls and BJ Watling, the Black Caps’ Abu Dhabi dressing room celebrations kicked off for a second time in a fortnight after sealing their first away test series win over Pakistan in 49 years.
On test debut at age 34, Somerville’s spinning fingers helped cripple Pakistan’s chase for 280 in the third and deciding test for a 123-run win to spark jubilant scenes.
A double-wicket maiden in his first over saw Somerville end with match figures of 7-127 as Pakistan were skittled for 156 on a day five spinners’ haven, just across from where Ajaz Patel twirled them to victory in the first test.
It was a remarkable comeback after they were bamboozled by Yasir Shah’s legspin in the second test in Dubai.
This was hugely significant victory for New Zealand who so rarely win series of three tests or more away from home. Their last was a Williamson-inspired 2-1 victory over the West Indies in 2014, and before that you go way back to England in 1999.
They’ve never done it in India, and in Pakistan just once in 1969 with victory in Lahore and two draws. Four years ago under Brendon McCullum in the United Arab Emirates they came back to win by an innings in Sharjah and level it 1-1.
Wellington-born Somerville arrived via Sydney, played two first-class matches for Auckland then was whistled up when Todd Astle was ruled out with injury.
He sat out the first two tests then was summoned for Ish Sodhi in an inspired selection. He’d already had a pretty good debut, facing 99 balls in the first innings then spinning his way to 4-75.
This time there was more turn and bounce, helped by Somerville’s height and flight as catchers circled and he lived the spin bowler’s dream of trying to bowl his side to victory on day five.
He struck twice in his first four balls and was on a hat-trick, nicking off left-hander Haris Sohail to a juggling Ross Taylor before Asad Shafiq got a faint glove and BJ Watling held on down the leg side.
Nicholls under the helmet was adamant and convinced them to review the not out decision and it paid off.
Pakistan crumbled to 55-5 at lunch then when Somerville turned one sharply to bowl captain Sarfraz Ahmed the end was nigh. They got there just before tea, with Patel luring the false shot from Hasan Ali.
Williamson was the game’s dominant individual with a first innings 89 then a superb 139, his 19th test century to lay the foundation for victory.
In the first innings he was backed by a determined Watling; in the second Nicholls was best supporting batsman with a quality 126 not out in a fifth wicket record stand against Pakistan of 212 with Williamson.
Having started the final day with all three results still in play, Williamson set Pakistan a minimum 79 overs to score 280 at a run rate of 3.54.
It seemed generous but to make history they needed to risk losing. New Zealand hoped the hosts – who’d lost just one series in the UAE in the past decade – had enough incentive to chase it.
Recent history was also on New Zealand’s side: just one of the 12 tests in Abu Dhabi had been won by the side batting last, when Pakistan chased down 40 to beat South Africa in 2013.
New Zealand got on top early with gems from Tim Southee and Colin de Grandhomme and never looked back
Southee went wide on the crease and skittled Mohammad Hafeez in his final test innings with a ripper, then de Grandhomme got one to nibble in the surface and find the edge for the big wicket of an in-form Azhar Ali.