Azhar’s 302* dominates “toothless” and “ragged” Windies

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Confronted with bowling that was toothless at best and ragged at worst, Azhar Ali marched to 302 not out, becoming the fourth Pakistan player to score a Test triple hundred.

 

Azhar’s marathon 469-ball knock anchored Pakistan’s first-innings total of 579 for 3 declared, before West Indies moved to 69 for 1 in the 22 overs they had to face till stumps.

 

After having shared a 215-run opening stand with Sami Aslam on the first day, Azhar was well supported on the second day too, first by Asad Shafiq and then by debutant Babar Azam, before Misbah-ul-Haq played an attacking cameo leading into the declaration.

 

Pakistan scored at well over 4 runs an over on day two, adding 300 runs in 65.3 overs as West Indies progressively fell to pieces with the ball and in the field.

 

Resuming the day on 146, Azhar was solid and assured right from the outset and displayed more of the lovely drives and powerful cuts and pulls that lit up the first day. He went into tea at 194, but got to his milestone within two balls of the resumption of play – a leg-side delivery from Shannon Gabriel was tucked fine for four, after which a wide one was cut past backward point for the four that took him past 200.

 

A salute and a set of nine push-ups followed; by that stage, West Indies’ fielders looked too ragged to follow suit. It took Azhar only a further 112 balls to bring up his triple-ton, powering his side towards a declaration that put West Indies out of their misery.

 

Azhar and Shafiq had added 73 runs to the overnight total of 279 for 1, taking their second-wicket partnership to 137. The pair built on their solid, platform with relative ease, facing little pressure either from West Indies’ bowlers or from a pink ball that did not do much in the air.

 

While Shafiq played the odd false shot, Azhar looked compact and sharp, quick to pounce on width and short balls. He greeted Roston Chase with successive lofted shots for four and six, and also played a number of assured sweep shots against both spinners.

 

The partnership ended when Shafiq drilled a return catch to Devendra Bishoo to depart for 67. That moment of success provided only fleeting relief for West Indies; Azam came in and settled down swiftly to provide capable support to Azhar.

Azhar Ali is pumped after scoring his maiden triple century
Azhar Ali is pumped after scoring his maiden triple century

He glided his way to a half-century that seemed to come far too easily, before driving in the air straight to cover to give West Indies their second and last breakthrough of the day. Thereafter, Azhar and Misbah threw their bats around.

 

They added 62 off 76 in a partnership that wasn’t particularly graceful – with a number of skied miscues – but served Pakistan’s purpose. Azhar brought up his triple-century in much the same manner as he had brought up his century, with a drive wide of mid-off for four, and on that jubilant note Pakistan declared.

 

In the closing stages of the day, Pakistan’s bowlers provided a contrast to West Indies’ effort. Sohail Khan and Mohammad Amir bowled a fuller length and got good shape on the new ball, while Yasir Shah got more grip and turn than the West Indies spinners had managed at any stage.

 

He was rewarded with the wicket of Leon Johnson, whom he trapped in front for 15. But Kraigg Brathwaite and Darren Bravo then provided a reminder of how good the wicket still was, batting out the rest of the session in solid fashion. With a mountain still to climb, West Indies require much more solidity in the days ahead. (ESPNCricinfo)

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