Azhar Ali shone in gloomy conditions with a patient, unbeaten century to guide Pakistan to 310 for six and a position of strength at the close of a rain-interrupted second day of the second Test against Australia. (SCORECARD)
Azhar was 139 not out with tail-ender Mohammad Amir on 28 as a rain-shower cut short another frustrating day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. (COMMENTARY)
After 39 overs were lost on the opening day, the soggy weather wiped out the entire middle session, frustrating home fans and the Australian bowlers, who could manage only two wickets for the day.
Azhar, however, was responsible for limiting their returns.
He and middle order batsman Asad Shafiq combined for a 115-run partnership and batted through the entire first session, punishing the Australian bowlers as the old ball reached the end of its life.
Resuming on 142-4, Pakistan were 232-4 for four at lunch before Australia finally broke through with the new ball after play resumed.
Shafiq tucked seamer Jackson Bird for a single to fine leg to bring up his 50 but was caught in the slips moments later, prodding uncertainly at a seaming delivery off the same bowler.
Captain Steve Smith, who grassed two chances in the first Test win in Brisbane, took his third slips catch of the innings to make Shafiq Bird’s third victim.
The breakthrough lifted the home side’s bowlers, and Josh Hazlewood soon had wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed caught by Peter Handscomb in the slips for 10.
Tail-ender Amir came out swinging and was reprieved on one when he sliced a thick edge into the slips, only for Usman Khawaja to miss the flight of the ball which raced off harmlessly for four.
He beat the slips a number of times in a quickfire innings to add more misery to Smith’s side.
Having taken over 90 balls to strike his first boundary on day one, Azhar opened his shoulders in the morning with a number of crisply struck boundaries.
A short break for rain left him stranded on 96, and Smith introduced himself and Nic Maddinson to bowl some part-time spin in an attempt to dislodge the opener before lunch.
On 99, though, Azhar glanced two runs down the leg-side off Maddinson to bring up the milestone, giving a little hop of joy before embracing Shafiq in celebration.