Osman Samiuddin will be providing regular session updates from the first Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi
(Reminder, that there is a live webchat tomorrow at lunch, starting at 12pm local time)
Pakistan motored on in the final session of the second day's play at the Shaikh Abu Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, building on their earlier patience to end on 259 for one, 62 runs ahead and in complete control.
Taufeeq Umar and Azhar Ali batted unperturbed through a beautiful late afternoon, repelling the second new ball in the process of compiling a 141-run partnership. Along the way came up Umar's 6th Test hundred - he now has more than any Pakistan opener since Saeed Anwar's retirement - and Azhar's 10th Test fifty.
They were notable landmarks, but the key was the acceleration. Having eked out only 59 runs in the afternoon, both perked up in adding another 85 runs after tea. It meant that Pakistan, whether by default or design, had actually paced their day quite well.
The real rush began as drinks approached, an Azhar drive - and it is a commanding stroke - bringing up the century stand. Post-drinks, Umar slashed through gully and cut through point in succession to move to 99. A single to fine leg and the nineties had been traversed in a blink.
Thereafter an easy accumulation kicked in, the boundaries rare but plenty of singles and doubles.
Sri Lanka strained, and with the second new ball, threatened but all too briefly, the inexperience of their attack becoming ever apparent.
ABU DHABI // To call the afternoon session of the second day of the opening Test at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, steady might be to overstate it.
Pakistan, with an unbeaten 56-run stand for the second wicket, moved to 174 for one having added only 59 runs in the session.
Sri Lanka will not mind, a much more disciplined performance allowing them to maintain some semblance of control. Predictably, at the centre was Rangana Herath. He had troubled both the openers in the morning and was rewarded immediately after lunch, when he trapped the impressive Mohammad Hafeez for 75.
Thereafter he wheeled away, teasing and troubling through almost the entire session in a mammoth 23-over spell from the South Stand End. He was so tight, that at one stage, Azhar Ali (26 not out) went scoreless for 36 balls, a spell during which Mahela Jayawardene dropped a sharp chance at slip.
Azhar opened up a little after that, dancing down to loft Herath over long-off and then, as the session drew to a close, driving Suranga Lakmal straight and square for three delicious boundaries, easily the shots of the day.
Taufeeq Umar (65 not out_ had earlier completed a stodgy fifty — his 12th — nearly an hour into the session, to complete an exercise that took him over three hours.
Only one shot of intent stood out, a pull through midwicket off Channaka Welegedera but with so much time left in the Test, Pakistan will be more than content with his approach.
Pakistan moved into a dominant position on the second morning of the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, batting unharmed — but not untroubled — through to lunch at 115 for no loss.
Mohammad Hafeez (73 not out), among Pakistan’s best players over the last year, was the engine gliding along to a confident, elegant fifth Test half century.
Taufeeq Umar (35 not out) gave nervy support, never looking settled but staying put. The partnership was only the sixth hundred partnership by Pakistani openers since January 2006, and the second between this pair after they put on 105 against South Africa last year in Dubai.
The pair have steered Pakistan to 82 behind Sri Lanka's first innings total of 197 all out.
Hafeez began the morning as if he had been batting through the night, so fluent did he appear. In the first two overs he clipped Channaka Welegedera through midwicket and then drove Nuwan Pradeep through the covers for four.
Another cut soon after brought up Pakistan’s fifty and the tone was set for a session in which Pakistan — or rather Hafeez — were rapid throughout.
His 50 came up after drinks, with a slashed boundary through third man and a towering loft for six off Rangana Herath was a late statement of control.
Sri Lanka weren’t poor but weren’t fortunate either. Herath, as he as done so often against Pakistan, troubled both openers on occasion; had there been a second slip in place in the first over after drinks, Hafeez might not still be around.
Umar, has not been pretty sight so far, survived three big appeals for caught behind though none of them looked out. His only boundary came off an inside edge, confirming his general scratchiness.
A word for debutant and birthday boy Pradeep though, who’s looks the quickest bowler on either side and clearly is a prospect for Lanka. Pakistan though are bossing this contest.
A reminder too: we’ll be having a live web chat tomorrow, the third day, at lunch time.
The heavy early morning fog had cleared around Abu Dhabi by the time the second day’s play got underway, but perhaps not entirely from over Sri Lanka.
A poor performance with the bat yesterday — and their captain Tillakaratne Dilshan said at the toss they would have batted had they won it anyway — put them on the back foot early.
And Pakistan’s breezy start yesterday afternoon turned into a more ominous one in the first half-hour of the second morning.
Mohammad Hafeez, who’s been probably Pakistan’s best all-round player over the last year, got things underway with some peachy boundaries in the day’s early overs; 17 came off the morning’s first two overs.
The surface, as both Junaid Khan and Angelo Mathews noted after the first day’s play, became easier to bat on as the day progressed. Little has been seen this morning to challenge that statement but there are sparks in this Sri Lanka attack, so don’t expect an easy ride.
Birthday boy Nuwan Pradeep, looking uncannily like Pakistan’s Mohammad Sami, has already shown some pace, touching 144kph at one stage. And Rangana Herath, a Pakistan nemesis, is unlikely to go unnoticed either.
Pakistan are on top, but nobody is more adept at squandering positions of strength.