DUBAI: Test cricket’s only second day-night Test, Pakistan’s historic 400th Test and it could not have been a better stage for Azhar Ali to steal the limelight.
His epic 302 not out left Pakistan in the pink of health in this first of three Tests and gives a picture of what to expect in the remaining two Tests. After Pakistan’s mammoth 579-3 declared, West Indies lost only one wicket to the expected hunter leggie Yasir Shah before closing the day on 69-1.
Their first task will be to reach 380 to avoid the follow-on, a fight which they don’t seem to possibly stand.
West Indies will first look to avoid the follow-on and that will not be easy as the Dubai stadium pitch will have cracks on the third day which will make the pink ball to spin and make their stay at the pitch difficult.
But truly the day belonged to Azhar Ali. The 31-year-old has been one of the top batsmen after Younis and Misbah-ul-Haq in this team which has settled in the last six years. Azhar showed his class through sublime form and left the West Indies attack clueless.
His 15-minute short of 11 hour stay at the crease was dominating although he gave two chances which the West Indies failed to grab, first on 17 and then on 190 and both the times the slip fielders gave him lifeline.
Right from the start of 215 with Sami Aslam, Azhar anchored the innings as he added 147 for the second wicket with Asad Shafiq (67) and 165 for the third with debutant Babar Azam who made an attractive 69.
His 23 boundaries were each well times and well executed and two sixes proved he had dominated the bowling right from the outset and although it was a flat pitch yet it needed serious concentration and resolve to play such a long innings.
That made Pakistan’s 400th Test, the second ever day-night test and his own 50th Test more memorable.
Shafiq and Azam also looked set for hundreds but somehow managed to get out, through their own faults and will rue a good chance of compiling a three-figure mark.