Talented Azhar Ali finally got a maiden Test century as Pakistan piled pressure on Sri Lanka on the second day of the second Test at the Dubai Cricket Stadium yesterday.
A three-figure score had eluded the 26-year-old right-hander in the last 14 Tests, but he finally reached the mark in the closing stages to guide Pakistan to a dominating 281-4, gaining a lead of 42 over Sri Lanka’s first innings of 239.
Ali, the only bright spot from last year’s fixing-marred tour of England, put on a 94-run stand for the fourth wicket with skipper Misbah-ul Haq (40 not out) and 117 for the third wicket with Younis Khan (55) to lift his team.
Ali finally fell for 100 in the -penultimate over of the day, leaving Misbah and nightwatchman Saeed Ajmal (5) at the crease.
Surviving two confident leg-before shouts against paceman Suranga Lakmal, Ali straight drove the same bowler to reach 96 and then at 98 miscued a sweep off left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, but got the much-needed two runs.
Ali, who reached his century in 309 minutes with nine boundaries, held his bat high in delight, before kissing the ground in respect on getting the elusive ton.
Ali’s two stands helped Pakistan overcome the early loss of openers Taufiq Umar (27) and Mohammad Hafeez (33) to Sri Lankan paceman Dhammika Prasad, who finished with 2-73.
Ali also became the 49th -Pakistan batsman to complete 1,000 Test runs when he reached 46.
Younis, when he reached 17, crossed Salim Malik’s aggregate of 5,768 (103 Tests) to become the fourth-highest Test run scorer for Pakistan behind Javed Miandad (8,832 in 104 Tests), Inzamam-ul-Haq (8,829 in 119) and Mohammad Yousuf (7,530 in 90).
Younis hit Dilshan over the deep mid-wicket boundary for a six to complete his 26th half-century, but in the Sri Lanka captain’s next over he played onto his stumps. His 55 also included two boundaries.
Pakistan started slowly after resuming at 42-0 and benefited from two dropped catches off successive deliveries from Lakmal, who bowled exceptionally well in the morning session.
It was the fifth over of the day when Lakmal got one to jump on Hafeez, whose tentative push ballooned toward cover where Dilshan failed to catch the ball, which fell behind him. Hafeez, on 25, went for a single.
Next ball, Mahela Jayawardene floored a regulation catch when Umar, on 24, failed to keep an edge down.
However, both openers failed to take advantage of the lapses, with Umar edging Prasad to wicket-keeper Kaushal Silva for his first catch in Tests, while Hafeez was adjudged leg-before in Prasad’s next over.
The first Test ended in a draw at Abu Dhabi. The third and final Test of the series will begin in Sharjah on Thursday next week.
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