Dubai: Pakistan opener Azhar Ali played a marathon unbeaten knock of 302 in the first Test against West Indies.
He almost batted two full days displaying his wide repertoire of strokes, amazing patience and enormous stamina.
When Gulf News asked how he managed to play such an epic knock in the extreme heat without yielding his wicket and how he planned his innings, Ali said: “It was hard and I was sweating all the time. Yesterday (first day) I even got cramps but today (Friday) since I was getting runs I was getting motivated over what is in front of me and that helped me keep on going. When you bat in pitches like this you want to make it big and can convert hundreds into doubles and triples. It’s been tough overall but I kept going on and I am really happy that we also have set up a big total.”
During the course of his knock he went past many milestones. It was the highest individual Test score ever in the UAE, breaking South Africa’s AB De Villiers’s unbeaten knock of 278 at Abu Dhabi Zayed Cricket Stadium against Pakistan in 2010. He went past his 4,000 run mark in Test cricket and it was only the fourth triple century by a Pakistan batsman after Hanif Mohammad’s 337 against West Indies in Bridgetown in 1957-58, Inzamam-ul-Haq’s 329 against New Zealand in Lahore in 2002 and Younis Khan’s 313 against Sri Lanka in Karachi in 2008-09.
“It is a great achievement and I will remember it all my life. It is a proud moment for me, those who have already scored triple centuries have been exceptional players and world-class players, I am still working hard on my game but getting on that 300 list is a proud moment for me,” said Ali who fielded as a substitute in the match when Inzamam hit 329 and also watched Younis Khan’s 313 on television.
“For me, I can’t really explain my feelings, the way the team and captain supported me through the last few runs, when I was nearing my third hundred, it was exceptional.”
Did he think about the records that are being broken during the course of his innings? “I don’t think a lot about record while batting but instead kept my focus in the game, went with the flow and let things unfold itself. Obviously when you are set, you have to maintain the pace of the runs as well but for these big runs you also require the luck factor despite how good the pitch is. So I did my hard work and was pushing myself — because you can’t really reach 270-280 every day in your career.
“Scoring a double century is tough and so think how hard it would be to score a triple. All I did was to keep the things simple as when you are gradually approaching to a big movement the pressure naturally increases and at the stage even the non-regular bowler may create trouble. I am thankful that things went on smoothly.”
Did he want to go beyond 300 as Pakistan’s record for a highest individual score of 337 runs was attainable and even a 400? “I didn’t want go beyond 300 because there was a team plan and winning is important. If I continued batting from there it could have hurt our team’s plan and the plan was to let me score 300 and I achieved it. We had a plan and there was a cut-off time where we had to declare.”
Ali has only one regret: “If I had scored this at home, and with a better crowd it could have made this an even better feeling, but a 300 is a 300 and I will take that any day, but I would love it if more crowds came in to watch the day-night Test.”