Azhar and Haq hundreds put Pakistan in driving seat in first Test

Rawalpindi (AFP): Veteran batsman Azhar Ali and opener Imam-ul-Haq scored big hundreds to help Pakistan dominate Australia Saturday on the second day of the opening Test in Rawalpindi.
Azhar knocked 185 and Haq a career-best 157 to guide Pakistan to 476-4 against a hapless Australian attack on a placid and unresponsive Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium pitch.
Skipper Babar Azam declared an hour before the close in the hope of an early wicket, but Australia ended the day on five without loss after bad light stopped play with 15 overs remaining.
Left-handed opener Usman Khawaja scored five, while David Warner was yet to get off the mark.
Australia will need another 272 runs to avoid the follow-on against Pakistan’s wily spinners, who are used to the pitch conditions. Azhar was delighted at scoring a hundred against the visitors. “I always enjoy scoring runs against Australia as they are one of the top teams and they challenge your abilities,” he said.
“It will be tough to bowl Australia out twice on this pitch, but I hope our bowlers do their best.” Australian Marnus Labuschagne, meanwhile, said his side had a tough fight ahead.
“I think the only way you get yourself back into a game like this is by taking it day by day, over by over. “We know we can turn this game.” The day began on a sombre note as players paid tribute to the legendary Australian spinner Shane Warne, who died of a suspected heart attack in Thailand Friday, with a minute’s silence. Both teams wore black arm bands, while the handful of early-morning spectators in the stands also stood in respect.

  • Slow session –
    Pakistan added just 57 runs at snail’s pace in the morning session.
    Haq was the slowest of the Pakistan pair, adding just six runs in the first hour and not hitting a boundary until the 90th minute. He was lucky to survive a caught-behind appeal on 143 off Lyon that the Australians didn’t challenge, when replays showed it hit the bat.
    But Azhar put on a solid 208-run stand for the second wicket with Haq and then another 101 for the third wicket with Azam, who was run out for 36. Azhar was finally caught reverse sweeping Labuschagne after batting for just four minutes under nine hours. Mohammad Rizwan (29) and Iftikhar Ahmed (13) remained not out.
    For Australia’s pace-cum-spin attack it was a hard toil with Labuschagne (1-53), Cummins (1-62) and Nathan Lyon (1-161) among the wickets. Spearheads Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood went wicketless for 71 and 53 runs respectively.
    Pakistan lost only Imam-ul-Haq in the first two sessions as they added 149 runs after resuming the day on 245-1. Haq completed 150 before he was trapped leg-before by Cummins soon after lunch. Haq, who unsuccessfully reviewed the decision, batted for nearly nine hours and hit 16 boundaries and two sixes. Azhar lifted Lyon towards deep mid-on to complete his 19th century in his 92nd Test — his fourth against Australia in 12 matches.
    Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998 for security reasons, and on Friday, at least 62 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack at a Shiite mosque in Peshawar, about 190 kilometres (120 miles) west of Rawalpindi. The tourists will play three Tests, as many one-day internationals and a single Twenty20 match.