Thursday, 27 October 2011

Century is a relief for Pakistan's Azhar Ali

Pakistan's fast-rising one-drop batsman Azhar Ali showed great delight and relief over scoring his maiden hundred in the second Test against Sri Lanka, a landmark that had eluded him for 14 matches.

The 26-year-old right-hander from Lahore notched exactly 100 to help Pakistan to 281-4 - a lead of 42 over Sri Lankan first innings total of 239 - on the second day of the match at Dubai cricket Stadium.

Ali, the find of Pakistan's fixing-marred tour of England last year, had failed to turn any of his previous ten half-centuries but this time lady luck finally smiled on him.

"It's a matter of great delight and a sense of huge relief," said Ali, whose previous best of 92 not out came against England at The Oval last year. "I am sure I am destined to make more hundreds after this first one."

Ali added 117 for the third wicket with Younis Khan (55) and another 94 for the fourth with skipper Misbah-ul Haq (40 not out) after Pakistan lost Taufiq Umar (27) and Mohammad Hafeez (33) early in the day.

He punched paceman Suranga Lakmal for his ninth boundary before taking a lucky couple off spinner Rangana Herath to reach the three-figure mark after 309-minute stay at the crease.

Ali said a century was missing from his cricket profile.

"I have been thinking that if I want to become a great player then I need to score a hundred, and it's great to have one in my name," said Ali, who follows South African great Jacques Kallis in batting.

Ali admitted he was nervous during the 90s as he survived two confident leg-before shouts against Lakmal.

"It did cross my mind that I got out for 90 against South Africa in Abu Dhabi last year," said Ali. "At that time I wanted to complete my hundred with a boundary but this time I changed my plan and Misbah was a great help at the other end."

Ali rose to recognition after Pakistan's 'A' tour of Australia in 2009 where he made two half centuries against an attack which included Doug Bollinger, Clint McKay and Jason Krejza.

He then hit a hundred in a three-day side game against touring Sri Lanka in 2009 before selected for the tour of England last year, and he instantly made his mark at the Test level.

Ali felt Pakistan can enforce a win here after letting off Sri Lanka, dropping seven catches, in the drawn first Test at Abu Dhabi last week.

"We need to get 100-150 run lead and with ball turning and keeping low we have a good chance," said Ali.

But Sri Lanka's Australian coach Geoff Marsh disagreed.

"We are still in the game," said Marsh, a former Australian opener who also coached his country's team and Zimbabwe. "If we bowl Pakistan out for a lead of 100-150 and then bat well we have the advantage of bowling last on this pitch."

Marsh praised Ali.

"He batted very well. It's always exciting to see a young player come through." AFP

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