Dubai: Azhar Ali earned the honour of becoming the first batsman to hit a triple century in a day-night Test match as Pakistan flogged the hapless West Indies attack to post a whopping 579 for 3 and declare their first innings on the second day of the first Test at the Dubai International Stadium. In the 22 overs before close, West Indies were 69 for 1 the wicket of opener Leon Johnson to leg spinner Yasir Shah.
Displaying elegant strokes and patience, Ali bettered his career best knock of 226 against Bangladesh in Mirpur last year and went on to remain unconquered on 302 runs off 469 balls with 23 boundaries and two sixes.
Ali broke the record for the highest individual score in UAE of AB De Villiers’ unbeaten 278 at Abu Dhabi Zayed Cricket Stadium against Pakistan in 2010. Unfortunately only less than a thousand people, despite a holiday, turned up to watch Ali’s epic knock. He became only the fourth Pakistan batsman, after Hanif Mohamad (337), Inzaman Ul Haq (329), and Younis Khan (313) to hit a triple century. During the course of his innings he went past his 4,000 runs in Test cricket.
Asad Shafiq and debutant Babar Azam too cracked half centuries. Shafiq added 137 runs with Ali in 40.4 overs for the second wicket while debutant Babar Azam went on to add 165 runs in 34.2 for the third wicket.
While Shafiq hit 67 off 119 balls with eight boundaries, Azam scored 69 off 105 balls with five boundaries. Skipper Misbah Ul Haq (29n.o) too added an unbeaten 62 runs for the fourth wicket with Ali.
Pakistan, commencing from their overnight score of 279 for 1, continued to pile up runs. Ali, who needed four more runs to reach his 150 runs, achieved it in the eighth over of the day. Shafiq too reached his half century off 93 balls by cracking Devendra Bishoo for a sweetly timed boundary through the extra cover and mid-off. He also pulled the next ball from Bishoo to the mid-wicket boundary and Pakistan went past the 300 run mark.
It had reached a stage where West Indies bowlers looked incapable of even beating the batsmen. West Indies bowling coach Roddy Estwick, after the first day, had remarked that his team’s objective will be to check the run flow. He refused to even complain about the pink ball which did nothing to help the bowlers by stating: “You can’t hide behind the ball and say the ball is this and the ball is that. It is the same for both teams, it is a good pitch, and it is all about hard work.”
Estwick also reminded that “Test cricket is called Test cricket because it is a test of your patience and your skill, endurance and everything”.
Ali and Shafiq displayed remarkable patience by picking only the ball meant to be hit. It looked like a race between to the two towards their personal landmarks, Ali moving towards his double century and Shafiq for his century. Bishoo ended Shafiq’s hopes of a century by making him check his drive to his well flighted delivery and had him caught and bowled for 67.
This ended his 119-ball knock with eight boundaries. This brought in debutant and inform batsman Azam onto the wicket. Azam’s showed his touch through a sparkling drive through extra cover to the boundary off Bishoo. He also square cut him with elegance for another boundary. Ali hit the first six of the match by slog sweeping Roston Chase to the empty mid-wicket stands.
Ali at his score on 190 had a lucky escape when Jermaine Blackwood at slips dropped his edge off Chase.
At tea break, Pakistan were 391 for2 after having added 112 runs in the first two hours of the match by losing just one wicket in the period.
Ali reached his double century in style by hitting the first two balls after tea from Shannon Gabriel for two consecutive boundaries, the first to fine leg and second to third man. Azam played some delectable shots to accelerate the run rate as Pakistan went past the 400 run mark.