'Our target is at least 500' - Azhar
Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali has said his side will target a first-innings score of at least 500 against New Zealand in the Sharjah Test. Pakistan finished the opening day at a comfortable 281 for 3, led by Mohammad Hafeez's unbeaten 178 - his seventh Test century - and the unbeaten fourth-wicket partnership of 121 between Hafeez and Misbah-ul-Haq.
"We are very glad we all batted. It is very important that when you win the toss and bat first, you make big runs," Azhar said. "Fortunately, we had a good start and we want to capitalise on it and tomorrow, hopefully, we continue that. And the partnership going on, we'll hopefully try and make it large and hopefully make a big score in the first innings.
"It's a good start but we want to make it big. On a good track, you want to bat as long as you can and make at least 500 on this wicket. So our target is at least 500, anything over that will be very good for us."
Azhar also praised Hafeez who made a return to the Test side after missing the Dubai match due to a hamstring injury. In between the games, Hafeez had also flown to England to have his action tested at Loughborough University after he was reported for a suspect action following the first Test of the series.
"I think he came back one day earlier and he was focused for this game and the way he batted, it showed how focused he was, throughout his innings he was very composed and he rarely missed a bad ball," Azhar said.
Hafeez's century also drew praise from New Zealand offspinner Mark Craig, who said the Pakistan batsman had played "exceptionally".
"I think you have to take your hat off to him. I think he batted extremely well," Craig said. "He managed to soak up pressure when we got the ball in the right areas and when we missed slightly, he managed to put it away. He batted exceptionally well."
Craig took two of the three Pakistan wickets to fall on the first day, dismissing Shan Masood and Azhar, but he also gave away runs at 4.18. Despite his performance, Craig was happy New Zealand had picked the rare combination of three spinners, and believed it helped the bowlers stay fresher for longer. He stressed New Zealand would focus on bowling to their plans and stop Pakistan from accumulating too many runs.
"I think the fact that you can play three spinners means the boys can chip in some shorter spells and keep a bit fresher for a bit longer so I think it's awesome that three of us are there," he said. "We are not really looking at what we can restrict them to. It's more a case of us going out there tomorrow and implementing our roles as bowlers and stuff like that."