Pakistan prospers on flat wicket, reaches 411-3 vs England

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Captain Babar Azam matched the aggression of England batters on a lifeless wicket with his eighth Test hundred and led Pakistan to 411-3 at tea on the third day of the first Test on Saturday.

Babar became the seventh batter to rack up a century in Englands first Test in Pakistan in 17 years on a wicket which has been a focal point for its run-friendly nature.

Pakistan trails England by 246 runs after the visitors had posted 657 all out on the back of hundreds by Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett and Ollie Pope.

Babar was 106 not out off 132 balls for his third test ton at Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi. It has included 14 fours and a six so far. Debutant lefthander Saud Shakeel (35 not out) was playing at a more traditional test-match pace and denied England success in the second session by combining in a 121-run stand with Babar.

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Babar used his feet well against the spinners and raised his half century off 68 balls when he lifted England spinner Jack Leach (2-134) over wide mid-on for a six after lunch.

He reached his hundred off 126 balls when he thumped a backfoot cover-driven boundary off England captain Ben Stokes on a wicket which is still unresponsive to either pace or spin.

Earlier, openers Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique struck record-breaking centuries after Pakistan resumed on 181-0 before throwing away their wickets to Leach and Will Jacks.

Azhar Ali (27) got a life when Crawley couldnt grasp a difficult chance against James Anderson before he was trapped leg before wicket by Leach after England took the second new ball immediately after 80 overs.

Left-handed Imam, who made centuries in each innings during the drawn test against Australia in March at the same venue, scored 121 off 207 balls. Shafique, centurion in the same test against Australia, also played a conventional test match-like 114 off 203 balls.

It was the first time in Test history that openers from both teams had scored centuries in the first innings after England openers Crawley and Duckett struck hundreds in Englands 506-4 on the first day.

The grassless pitch has even been criticized by Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja as not a good advert for test cricket.

Only 14 wickets fell over five days on a similar type of pitch when Australia last played at the Pindi Cricket Stadium and the wicket was rated as below average by ICC match referee Ranjan Madugalle. The pitch received one demerit point as a result.

England preserved its fast bowlers on an unresponsive wicket and persisted with its spinners for about 1 1/2 hours.

Shafique completed his 100 off 177 balls with a single after lofting Joe Root for a six on the legside before Imam also reached the milestone with a flicked boundary off Root.

With the wicket doing little for the England spinners, Imam threw away his wicket by unnecessarily going for a big shot against Leach and holed out in the deep. Leach then trapped Azhar lbw on the back foot at the stroke of lunch.


(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)

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