Azhar’s triple century puts Pakistan in control
DUBAI- Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam scored half-centuries in dominant batting performance by Pakistan on another bad day for West Indies.
Having created history by becoming day-night Test cricket’s first centurion on the first day, Azhar Ali went on to shatter a few records and become the first player to score a day-night Test triple century on Friday (October 14) in the first Test against West Indies in Dubai.
Pakistan declared its innings closed at 579 for 3 as soon as Azhar got to the landmark, and by stumps on the second day at Dubai International Stadium, West Indies was 69 for 1, trailing by 510. Kraigg Brathwaite was unbeaten on 32 at the close, and was accompanied by Darren Bravo (14), the batsmen getting together after Leon Johnson was sent back for 15 by Yasir Shah.
It was another day of complete dominance by Azhar, and Pakistan. The pink ball, with a modified black seam, posed no apparent visibility problems as Azhar hammered 23 fours and two sixes in his unbeaten 302 from 469 balls, an innings which lasted 658 minutes.
In the process, he became the fourth Pakistan batsman to hit a triple century, leapfrogging Javed Miandad to No. 4 among highest individual scores by Pakistan batsmen, behind Hanif Mohammad, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. He also became the tenth Pakistani to cross 4000 Test runs in the process.
West Indies had only itself to blame, though. Azhar, having been dropped on 17 on the first day, found himself gifted another lifeline when on 190, Jermaine Blackwood dropping a regulation catch at slips this time off Roston Chase. On a flat pitch, Azhar was rarely troubled apart from those two occasions.
Pakistan resumed the day at 279 for 1, and Azhar continued from where he left off. From his overnight 146, Azhar reached his 150 with a single, and then picked on Chase, slog-sweeping him for a six. At the other end, Asad Shafiq had reached his 15th Test half-century after carrying on from his overnight 33, but couldn’t go on to get a biggie. He mistimed a drive and popped it back to Devendra Bishoo, the leg-spinner, for a 119-ball 67.
Babar Azam, the debutant, then walked in and was comfortable right from the off. He batted with authority, and the early fours off Bishoo would have eased his nerves, if any. At the other end, Azhar was nearing his double-century. Resuming after tea at 391 for 2, he sent Shannon Gabriel to the fence off the first two deliveries in the session to reach the landmark, and celebrated with everything from push-ups to the salute.
Azhar soon crossed his career-best Test score of 226 – achieved against Bangladesh in Dhaka last year – and Pakistan kept going, past the 400 and the 450-run mark. Azam brought up his half-century off 87 balls, before Azhar reached his 250.
Pakistan carried on and soon crossed the 500-run mark before Azam became Bishoo’s second victim, dismissed for a 105-ball 69 shortly before the dinner break. On resumption, with Misbah-ul-Haq for company, Azhar continued chipping away. He worked the gaps mostly, but brought up the landmark in style with a slap through covers off Blackwood for four. There were many cheers from the Pakistan dressing room and the sparse crowd that had gathered.
Pakistan declared soon after, hoping to further demoralise West Indies in the 20-odd overs that remained in the day. Yasir did that to some degree, trapping Johnson plumb in front for a 32-ball 15, and Pakistan will look to do more of that on the third day.