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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Relief for Pakistan's Babar Azam after scoring first career Test hundred in Dubai

But middle-order batsman insists he had not been worried about reaching milestone in his 17 match

Pakistan middle-order batsman Babar Azam, right, scored the first century of his 17-Test career. AFP
Pakistan middle-order batsman Babar Azam, right, scored the first century of his 17-Test career. AFP

Babar Azam said he was relieved to have hit a first Test century for Pakistan, just three innings after being dismissed on 99 against Australia.

The fact it has taken the gifted 24 year old as many as 17 matches to break his duck seems odd.

Babar is the world’s No 1 batsman in Twenty20 cricket, and already has eight one-day international centuries to his name – but many would regard his game as being even better suited to the long-form.

It is safe to assume the 127 not out he made against New Zealand in the second Test at the Dubai International Stadium could be the first of many in whites for Pakistan.

It was an entirely assured effort, bar perhaps for a few tricks of the mind. Babar has a well-chronicled blindspot when it comes to intervals, often losing his wicket on one side or the other of a break.

As such, he might have been a touch pensive when the teams broke for tea with him on 99 not out – his previous highest Test score, which he made against Australia in Abu Dhabi last month.

The man himself acknowledged it was a relief, but said he had not been worried about reaching the milestone.

“There was no pressure, I’d be lying if I say that not scoring a Test century was burden on me,” Babar said.

Babar Azam prostrates as he celebrates scoring his first Test century in Dubai on Sunday. AFP
Babar Azam prostrates as he celebrates scoring his first Test century in Dubai on Sunday. AFP

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“I have never had issues with my batting position, wherever the team wants me to bat, I am happy to play at that position.

“I don’t think about the position [he bats higher in the order in limited-overs cricket, but No 6 in Tests], I just focus on my performance. I just try and give my 100 per cent.

“If you score runs, you develop a confidence. A Test hundred boosts your confidence like no other century, I am pleased to have scored one today.”

For much of the Pakistan innings it seemed as though they were staging a sit-in protest at the cricketing aberration going on down the road in Sharjah.

The technicolour freneticism of the T10 League could not have struck more of a contrast with the dour watchfulness of the stand between Haris Sohail, who made a second Test century of his own, and Babar.

They were together for 65.1 overs, collecting 186 runs in that time, before the limpet-like Haris was finally prised from the crease by Trent Boult.

He had made 147 and faced 421 balls by that point. As a contrast, if Nicholas Pooran had faced that many balls, and scored at the same rate he did in making the top score so far in the T10 League, he would have racked up 1,297.

Of course, it is not comparing remotely-like things, and Test matches here are rarely harem-scarem at the best of times. But, still, Pakistan’s run gathering was particularly tepid.

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“In the UAE the wickets are on the slower side, you can’t play through the line, you need to take your time and be patient,” Babar said.

The fact scoring was so sluggish meant it took them 167 overs to score the 418-5 that captain Sarfraz Ahmed deemed enough to declare on as stumps on the second day neared.

It was Pakistan’s lowest first-innings declaration in a Test – bar the weather-affected match in Dublin in May – in 40 years.

In the nine overs they received before the close, New Zealand made it to 24-0, 394 runs behind.

Colin de Grandhomme, who took two wickets in his first five overs, then toiled through 25 more for no further return, said bowling had been hard.

“It was tough, but credit to the bowlers who kept running in,” said De Grandhomme, who finished with 2-44 from 30 thrifty overs.

“It did get a bit of reverse, yesterday and today. We just bowled where we could, and obviously the Pakistanis batted pretty well.

“Whenever you get over 400 runs, it is good to get that score on the board to start with. If we bat well, I’m sure we can get close to that or past it.”