Azhar cruises past 250 as Pakistan continue grind


Pakistan vs West Indies, 1st Test

Dubai—Confronted with bowling that was toothless at best and ragged at worst, Azhar Ali marched to his second Test double-century as Pakistan continued to build a huge first-innings total in the day-night Test in Dubai. He was well supported, first by Asad Shafiq and then by debutant Babar Azam, before Misbah-ul-Haq showed attacking intent just before dinner, as Pakistan went into the interval at 530 for 3.
Resuming the day on 146, Azhar was solid and assured right from the outset and displayed more of the lovely drives and powerful cuts and pulls that lit up the first day. He went into tea at 194, but got to his milestone within two balls of the resumption of play – a leg-side delivery from Gabriel was tucked fine for four, after which a wide one was cut past backward square for the four that took him past 200. A salute and a set of nine push-ups followed; by that stage, West Indies’ fielders looked too ragged to follow suit.
Azhar and Shafiq had added 73 runs to the overnight total of 279 for 1, taking their second-wicket partnership to 137. The pair built on their solid platform with relative ease, facing little pressure either from West Indies’ bowlers or from a pink ball that did not do much in the air. While Shafiq played the odd false shot, including a full-blooded sweep that failed to make contact with a flighted delivery from Devendra Bishoo, Azhar looked compact and sharp, quick to pounce on width and short balls. He greeted Roston Chase with successive lofted shots for four and six, and also played a number of assured sweep shots against both spinners.
The partnership ended when Shafiq drilled a return catch to Devendra Bishoo on 67. That moment of success provided only fleeting relief for an increasingly deflated West Indies side. Azam came in and settled in swiftly to provide capable support to Azhar. He glided his way to a half-century that seemed to come far too easily, before driving in the air straight to cover to give West Indies only their second breakthrough of the day.
West Indies had their moments, but were not able to capitalise on them. Bishoo had dropped short frequently in the first session. Immediately after dismissing Shafiq, his bowling perked up – temporarily.
He beat Azam with a beautifully flighted ball and found the batsman’s outside edge in the next over, only for the ball to fly to the right of slip. Frustratingly, he dropped short again the next ball and was cut for another boundary. A few overs later, Chase got Azhar to nick to slip, where Jermaine Blackwood spilled a sharp chance that should have been taken.—AFP