Sunday, February 5, 2023

Pakistan reach 499-7 after Imam, Abdullah and Babar centuries

Pakistan reach 499-7 after Imam, Abdullah and Babar centuries

RAWALPINDI (92 News) - England found ways to take wickets and sensed a good lead despite centuries by Abdullah Shafique, Imamul Haq and Babar Azam on the third day of the opening Test in Rawalpindi on Saturday.

Pakistan were 499-7 at stumps with Agha Salman (10) and Zahid Mahmood (one) at the crease -- still trailing England's mammoth 657 first innings total by 158 runs, with three wickets in hand.

On an interesting day, Pakistan were lifted by centuries from skipper Babar Azam (136) and openers Imam-ul-Haq (121) and Abdullah Shafique (114). But England took three wickets in the first session, none in the second and four before the close to put themselves in a better position.

Spinners Will Jacks (three for 132) and Jack Leach (two for 160) shared the early spoils, while the pace duo of James Anderson and Ollie Robinson took a wicket each.

Saturday's final session belonged to home skipper Babar Azam, who hit 19 boundaries and a six for his first Test century against England. He cracked a boundary towards cover off opposition skipper Ben Stokes to reach his eighth career Test century, this coming off 126 balls and studded with 13 boundaries.

Jacks forced a miscued drive off Babar to get him caught at point, and in the next over Mohammad Rizwan played straight into the hands of mid-wicket off Anderson.

Debutant Saud Shakeel, who added 123 for the fourth wicket with Babar, was caught behind off Robinson soon after the tea interval.

Earlier, Babar upped the tempo in the second session after Pakistan lost centurions Abdullah Shafique (114), Imam-ul-Haq (121) and Azhar Ali (27) before lunch.

The centuries by Shafique and Haq meant for the first time in 146 years of Test cricket, the openers of both teams reached three figures in the first innings. Their 225-run opening stand – a Pakistan record against England – is also the first time in Test history that two 200-plus opening partnerships were made in the same match, following Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett's 233-run partnership for the visitors.

Pakistan started the day on 181 without loss and Abdullah Shafique, 89 overnight, was the first to three figures with a sharp single off Joe Root. Imam-ul-Haq, who started the session on 90, followed with a boundary off the same bowler to complete his century.

They both now have three Test centuries and successive hundreds at the venue, having also reached three figures against Australia in March this year.