TAUNTON: Azhar Ali made an unbeaten century to strengthen Pakistan’s position on the final day of their England tour opener against Somerset at Taunton on Tuesday.
Ali (101 not out) and Asad Shafiq (69 not out) shared a stand of 138 in 30 overs as Pakistan made 236 for four declared in their second innings.
That left Somerset needing a huge total of 468 in 73 overs for victory.
But given Somerset had collapsed to 128 in their first innings, with left-arm paceman Mohammad Amir taking an impressive three for 36, just holding out for a draw would be a fine achievement for the south-west county.
However, a sunny day at Taunton meant there was less swing in the air for Pakistan’s pacemen than earlier in the match.
Veteran Somerset opener Marcus Trescothick, the former England batsman, drove both Amir and Sohail Khan down the ground.
He also late cut Khan for a couple of fours.
At lunch, Somerset were 47 for one with 40-year-old left-hander Trescothick 37 not out.
But first-class debutant Adam Hose was out off what became the last ball before lunch when he was lbw to leg-spinner Yasir Shah for eight after he missed a ball that went straight on.
Pakistan resumed Tuesday on 140 for four, with Ali 50 not out and Shafiq unbeaten on 26.
Shafiq went on to complete a 76-ball fifty with seven fours.
The pair were especially severe on Somerset’s spinners on Tuesday, with the 31-year-old Ali hoisting teenager Dom Bess for two huge sixes over long-on in successive balls.
As soon as Ali had gone to his 26th first-class century, in 168 balls including 12 fours and two sixes, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq declared.
Former spot-fixer Amir took three for 36 in 11 overs in Somerset’s meagre first innings.
Amir’s exciting career came to a shuddering halt during a Lord’s Test in 2010 when he and new-ball partner Mohammad Asif were caught bowling no-balls to order on the instructions of captain Salman Butt as part of a tabloid newspaper sting operation.
All three received five-year bans from cricket and together with sports agent Mazhar Majeed, jail terms.
Amir, who served three months in an English young offenders institute, has only featured in the game’s shorter formats since his return to Pakistan duty in January.
But the 24-year-old left-armer is now back in England and could make his Test return in the first of a four-match series at Lord’s on July 14.