Pakistan openers set stage for huge total

Azlam and Ali put on a whopping 215 runs partnership in 67.5 overs

Image Credit: AFP
Pakistan's Azhar Ali raises his bat as he celebrates after scoring a century.
Gulf News

Dubai: Pakistan openers Azhar Ali and Sami Azlam placed their team on the road to a huge first innings score against West Indies on the first day of their first day-night Test match with the pink ball at the Dubai International Stadium.

Neither the pitch nor the much talked about pink ball did anything special. The West Indies bowlers too failed to create any impression as Azlam and Ali put on a whopping 215 runs partnership in 67.5 overs. Ali reached his century, his 11th Test hundred in the 62nd over and is unbeaten on 146 runs off 268 balls with 14 boundaries.

Azlam fell ten short of his century, playing on to his wicket while attempting a sweep off Roston Chase. His 90 came off 212 balls with nine boundaries. At close, Pakistan posted 279 for 1 in the 90 overs with Asad Shafiq unbeaten on 33. He has added an unbeaten 64 runs with Ali for the second wicket.

Pakistan won the toss and opted to bat with skipper Misbah Ul Haq stating that the pitch is looking good and dry but may soon get slower and produce roughs and ensure turn for his spinners. He did not want his players to be affected by the enormity of the occasion as it was also Pakistan’s 400th Test match.

With advice to his players, especially openers, to forget it’s a pink ball but to watch the ball and play, Misbah send out the left hander Aslam and his vice captain and right handed Ali to open the innings. The left-right combination quickly settled down too.

West Indies pacers Shannon Gabriel and Miguel Cummins bowled tightly forcing Ali to even once edge Gabriel short of Kraig Brathwaite at slips. The first boundary of the match came in the seventh over from Ali, who flicked Gabriel to mid-wicket. Four overs later, Azhar on-drove Cummins’s overpitched delivery with power for another boundary.

In the 13th over, Ali had a lucky escape when he slashed at Cummins and Leon Johnson at gully failed to hold on to the thick outside edge which raced to the boundary. Azhar celebrated his lucky with picking another boundary off the next ball to the fine leg boundary.

The openers recorded their 50-run partnership in the 19th over and Aslam after playing 64 balls hit his first boundary off Kraig Brathwaite to mid-off. He hit the next ball too for a boundary by stepping out from his crease.

West Indies strike bowler and leg break bowler Devendra Bishoo was introduced in the 21st over and Ali hit his third delivery past backward point for a boundary.

At tea break, Pakistan posted 81 for no loss with Ali on 38 and Aslam on 37 with both the batsmen facing 83 balls.

The second session under lights too did not create any problems for the batsmen and the pair recorded their 100 runs partnership in the 34th over. Aslam was the first to reach his half century cutting off spinner Roston Chase to the boundary. Playing only in his fifth Test match, it was his third half century. Ali reached his half century too in the 39th over.

Pakistan handed Test caps to batsman Babar Azam and left-arm spinner and allrounder Mohammad Nawaz. Chief selector and former captain Inzamam Ul Haq, who watched the action from the stands, expressed his happiness at introducing youngsters and they performing well.

“It is a proud moment and honour that Pakistan are playing their 400th Test and it will be the icing on the cake if we can go on and win the Test match. Sami Aslam has already played in England. And today, Nawaz is making his debut. And we are looking at a batsman who can bowl as well.

"Both Babar Azam and Nawaz have done well and as a selection committee, we are trying to give enough opportunities to the youngsters across all formats. We have given some a chance in the Pakistan team, some in the Pakistan ‘A’ team and some in the side games.

"So, we are trying to do all this because our players who are playing first class cricket, they don’t get disappointed that they cannot make it. We are trying at different stages, to give them a chance. And from those, we are trying to find some youngsters who are good enough to play for the Pakistan team.”

SPORT PICTURE OF THE DAY: Monday, October 24

England's players celebrate after beating Bangladesh during the final day's play of the first Test cricket match at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Cricket Stadium in Chittagong on October 24, 2016. AFP