DUBAI: As expected Pakistan flourished on a flat pitch off the pink ball in the day-night Test in Dubai.
The first day of their 400th Test brought as much joy for Misbah-ul-Haq’s men as did the occasion, with Azhar Ali becoming the first batsman to score a hundred off the pink ball in a day-night Test.
His 146 not out took Pakistan to a dominating 279-1 at close on day one and set the tone for the rest of the match and three-match series. Asad Shafiq was 33 not out.
Australian wicket-keeper batsman Peter Nevill top scored with 66 in the first-ever day-night test — also with a pink ball at Adelaide last November in a low-scoring match.
The day-night Test is a concept introduced to attract more crowds in the five-day format but Dubai saw a dismal crowd which not even crossed a 1000 mark on the first day as locals have no interest in the game while expats are mostly working till late in the night.
With Pakistan xxx at close on day one of this three-test series it is evident that it will be another one-sided series, like the Twenty20 and one-days where West Indies were clouted 3-0.
Azhar and Sami Aslam, who was cruelly unlucky not to score a hundred after getting out for 90, feasted on a grass-less pitch with a modest bowling attack as neither the spinners nor the fast bowlers posed any trouble for the openers who were only separated on 215 in the penultimate hour of the day.
The modified seam of black colour helped the batsmen sight the ball well at all times in contrast to the white and green seam on the same Kookaburra balls in Adelaide last year and it worked to Pakistan’s advantage.
Azhar was in a sublime form, driving and cutting with slick touches. Dropped at 14 off fast bowler Miguel Cummins by Leon Johnson at gully, Azhar took full advantage of the lapse and smashed his 11th hundred.
That made his own milestone of 50th Test more memorable.
Pakistan had to adjust Azhar as opener in the final Test of the England tour and won the Oval Test and it is likely that they will persist with him at the top on their important tours of New Zealand and Australia which is allowing them to play a fifth bowler.
Sami was cruelly unlucky not to score his maiden hundred, trying to sweep off-spinner Roston Chase and dragged the ball into the stumps. The 20-year-old fell for 82 in the Birmingham Test after he was recalled to the side following a one-year absence.
West Indian spinners could not extract much spin out of the pitch. Devendra Bishoo, Chase and part-timer Kraig Brathwaite tried their best but to no avail.
It will be a different story when Pakistani spinners, primarily leggie, Yasir Shah bowl on this pitch and West Indian batsmen inexperience against spin will be exposed from day three.