DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, CMC – Opener Azhar Ali carved out a monumental maiden triple century on the second day of the first Test here yesterday, as Pakistan piled up their second highest Test score against West Indies, to leave the beleaguered Caribbean side in a scrap to save the historic day/night encounter.
The 30-year-old right-hander unfurled an unbeaten 302, an innings that propelled the hosts to 579 for three declared in their first innings at the Dubai International Stadium, and put West Indies under immense pressure to avoid yet another loss on what has been a wretched tour.
At the close, however, they were making a fist of it on 69 for one, with obdurate opener Kraigg Brathwaite unbeaten on 32 and stylish left-hander Darren Bravo on 14.
The lone casualty was the left-handed Leon Johnson, who missed a sweep at leg-spinner Yasir Shah and was lbw for 15 with the score on 42, about 40 minutes away from the close.
Heading into the pivotal third day, West Indies are 510 runs behind Pakistan and requiring a massive effort to avoid falling further behind in the game.
Pakistan’s dominance, however, came through Azhar who spearheaded a disciplined Pakistan effort which saw debutant Babar Azam (69) and Asad Shafiq (67) also record half-centuries.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq chipped in with an unbeaten 28 as he helped Azhar heap misery on a deflated West Indies side inside the final session.
All told, Azhar struck 23 fours and two sixes in an innings spanning 469 deliveries and two minutes shy of 11 hours, while becoming the fourth Pakistan batsman in history to notch a triple century and the first in seven years.
He is only the second Pakistani to hit a triple century against West Indies following Hanif Mohammed’s 337 in Bridgetown 58 years ago, and became the 10th of his countrymen to eclipse the 4 000-run mark in Tests.
Resuming the day on 146 with Pakistan on 279 for one, Azhar anchored three key partnerships which kept West Indies’ success to a minimum. He extended his overnight second wicket stand with Shafiq to 137, added a further 165 with Azam before sharing 62 in an unbroken fourth wicket partnership with Misbah.
Azhar notched his 150 in the eighth over of the opening session when he worked seamer and captain Jason Holder fine for a single and Shafiq, unbeaten overnight on 33, raised his 15th half-century in the very next over when he caressed leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo (2-125) to the cover boundary.
The right-handed Shafiq immediately celebrated by pulling the next delivery to the ropes at mid-wicket and looked intent on taking his 10th Test hundred when he perished 40 minutes before lunch at 352 for two, caught and bowled by Bishoo after coming down the track and being deceived in flight.
Fast bowler and captain Jason Holder offers a wry grin as Pakistan pile on the runs during the second day of the day/night opening Test on Friday. (Photo courtesy WICB Media)
He faced 199 balls in just under three hours at the crease and struck eight fours.
Azhar, meanwhile, went on the attack, lifting off-spinner Roston Chase to long on for four and then clearing the ropes at mid-wicket for the first six of the contest, in an over which leaked 11 runs and which took him into the 170s.
He survived a sharp chance on 190, edging Chase wide of slip where Jermaine Blackwood failed to hold on, and was unbeaten on 194 at the break partnered by Azam on 23 with Pakistan on 391 for two.
Azhar raised his second career Test double hundred in the first over after the interval with consecutive boundaries off the first two deliveries from speedster Shannon Gabriel.
Pakistan passed the 400-run mark in the same over and set about dominating the Windies bowling, with the 21-year-old Azam, who scored centuries in each of the three One-Day Internationals against West Indies in the preceding series, picking up where he left off.
The right-hander stroked two delightful off-side boundaries off Bishoo to move into double figures and picked off Gabriel for another boundary, as he strolled to his maiden Test half-century in the fourth over following the drinks break.
He appeared ominously set for another hundred when he gifted his wicket just minutes before the second interval, driving Bishoo loosely to Jason Holder at cover, after hitting five fours off 105 balls.
Unbeaten on 272 at the tea break, Azhar wasted little time in reaching his triple century on resumption, requiring only another 33 balls to gather the 28 runs needed to reach his landmark.
And it came with some aplomb as he threaded part-time bowler Blackwood to the cover boundary to spark celebrations and trigger Pakistan’s declaration.