DUBAI: Azhar Ali finally got his much-waited maiden Test century as Pakistan piled pressure on Sri Lanka on the second day of the second Test at the Dubai Cricket Stadium.
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 for four, gaining a lead of 42 over Sri Lankan first-innings score of 239. Ali, the only bright spot from last year’s incident-marred tour of England, put on a 94-run stand for the fourth wicket with captain Misbahul Haq (40*) after putting on 117 for the third wicket with Younus Khan (55) to lift his team.
Ali finally fell for 100 in the penultimate over of the day, leaving Misbah and nightwatchman Saeed Ajmal (five) 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 much-eluded hundred.
Ali said he was delighted to get what he wanted, a Test hundred.
“I’ve been consistent but couldn’t score a hundred and this is a great relief,” said Ali, whose previous best was 92 not out against England at The Oval last year. “I was a bit nervous in the 90s but I overcame that.”
Ali’s two stands helped Pakistan overcome the early loss of openers Taufeeq Umar (27) and Mohammad Hafeez (33) to Sri Lankan paceman Dhammika Prasad who finished with two for 73.
He also became the 49th Pakistani batsman to complete 1,000 Test runs when he reached 46.
Younus goes past Malik
Meanwhile, Younus crossed Salim Malik’s aggregate of 5,768 (103 Tests) to become the fourth-highest Test run-getter for Pakistan behind Javed Miandad, Inzamamul Haq and Mohammad Yousuf.
Younis hit Dilshan over deep mid-wicket boundary for a six to complete his 26th fifty, but in the captain’s next over he played onto his stumps.
Sri Lanka coach Geoff Marsh said his team needed to restrict Pakistan to a lead of 100 to 150.
“We need to get them out quickly,” said Marsh, a former Australia opener who also coached his national team. “We’re still in the game but need to bat well the second time because bowling last would be an advantage.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2011.