Azhar, Abid crack centuries to put Pakistan in command against Zimbabwe

From our correspondent

HARARE: Azhar Ali and Abid Ali hammered centuries to put Pakistan in command in their second Test against Zimbabwe here on Friday.

On the first day of the second and final Test of the two Test-match series here at the Harare Sports Club Ground Azhar (126) and Abid (118*) put on 236 for the second wicket record stand at this wicket to enable Pakistan reach 268-4 at stumps on the slow wicket on which the home bowlers had to toil hard until the final quarter of the last session.

The stand also is the sixth-highest in Pakistan’s cricket history for the second wicket and the highest against Zimbabwe. After losing Imran Butt (2) to Ngarava (1-35) early both Azhar and Abid settled themselves and stitched a solid partnership which eventually helped Pakistan finish the day-1 on a good note despite Zimbabwe’s paceman Blessing Muzarabani’s late triple strike handed some grace to the home side’s bowling unit towards the end of the day.

The crucial partnership was broken by Muzarabani who got rid of Azhar, who handed a catch to the gully fielder. The former Pakistan captain hit 17 fours and one six in his 240-ball knock which lasted for 311 minutes. This was Azhar’s 18th century in his 87th Test. Azhar brought in his fifty off 113 balls and his century came off 198 deliveries.

Muzarabani in his next two overs sent Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam (2) and the first Test centurian Fawad Alam (5) to bring some respectability to his side. Pakistan sent on nightwatchman Sajid Khan (1*) who negotiated well 16 balls and gave a good support to Abid. Abid, who brought in his century off 224 deliveries, was at the crease at stumps. He hit 17 fours in his 246-ball unfinished knock. This is Abid’s third Test century in his 12th Test. Muzarabani, who did wonders with the new ball, finished the day impressively with 3-41 in 19 overs. Earlier, Babar Azam opted to bat first after winning the toss.

Pakistan handed Test cap to the 36-year old right-arm pacer Tabish Khan after playing 137 first-class matches during his almost two-decade long domestic journey. He is the third oldest Pakistani cricketer to have made a Test debut. He is the first Asian cricketer with more first-class wickets (598) before making a Test debut. Zimbabwe, meanwhile, handed Test cap to their young paceman Luke Jongwe.