Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Dubai, 2nd day October 27, 2011

Past failures made me nervous - Azhar Ali

ESPNcricinfo staff

Azhar Ali, the Pakistan batsman, said memories of previous innings in which he had failed to convert big fifties into a century did make him nervous as he approached his maiden Test hundred in Dubai. He had scored 10 Test half-centuries before he finally reached the three-figure mark on Thursday, and said this time he was patient in waiting for the last few runs to come.

"The last time I was on 90, in Abu Dhabi [against South Africa], I tried to hit a few boundaries to get to the hundred mark. But this time I waited for the bad balls.

"I was a bit nervous and did think of the other occasions I had been in the nineties. Misbah-ul-Haq was very helpful and told me to just bat and wait for the runs to come."

Even without having got a century, Azhar had averaged 39.75 over his first 14 Tests and cemented his place in the Pakistan side. However, he said his ambition is to become a "great player", and knew that would require big scores. "You have to play big innings to be a great player and I was missing those. Now, I want to continue to play big knocks because I've already missed a few hundreds and have to make up for that."

Pakistan had received criticism for batting too slowly in the first innings of the first Test against Sri Lanka, and on Thursday got just 239 runs in 90 overs at a run-rate of 2.66. Azhar's strike-rate was 41.32 but he said the Dubai pitch was not easy to score quickly on.

"It's not easy to score freely on this pitch. The track is slow and if you try to score fast you could end up playing a silly shot and losing your wicket. On this pitch you have to take your time. We did well as a team today to get into the position we are in.

"A lead of 150 or 200 will put us in a good position because the ball is turning and keeping low. Today, the second new ball swung as well. This is the kind of pitch where one good spell can run through a batting line-up."

Azhar was dismissed at the end of the day for exactly 100 but replays showed he had got a bottom-edge on to the Tillakaratne Dilshan delivery. Rather than blame the umpire Tony Hill for the decision, Azhar said he was disappointed he had chosen to play a sweep with the end of the day nearing.

"I selected a wrong shot and it was disappointing because had we been three down I could have been sitting here looking forward to increasing the lead tomorrow. But we have Misbah there who is very calm so hopefully he can take us ahead."

Geoff Marsh, the Sri Lanka coach, said he was glad his side got rid of Azhar before stumps but said he had looked like getting out in the nineties. "We were glad to get Azhar out at the end of the day but it looked as though we could have had him before," Marsh said. "You could see he was nervous in the nineties and it looked like we could dismiss him then."

Despite Pakistan being ahead by 42 runs with six wickets in hand, Marsh said Sri Lanka were not yet out of the match. "If we can bowl Pakistan out for a first-innings lead of 100-150 then we have to bat well and you never know on the last day of a Test match. If you can get 150 or so ahead by the last day of a Test then the previous four days go out the window and it comes down to those last two sessions.

"But we've got a lot of hard work to do. We've first got to bowl them out. The turn on this pitch is slow so it's going to be hard work for both sides. If you bowl well on this pitch there is a bit of swing and help."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ronald on October 28, 2011, 7:52 GMT

    Where is Ajunta Mendes? Sri Lanka's bowling looks weak and ridiculous. Why is overweight Herath in this team. His bowling looks innocuous, ordinary and not penetrative enough. Lanka is this all you have a part timer, Dilshan and ordinary Herath. This is not good enough.

  • Sayed on October 28, 2011, 5:19 GMT

    Well done, One pakistani player i really admire, not only for his Name but his character, very unlike Pakistani .

  • Mohammed on October 28, 2011, 4:27 GMT

    One of the batsmen, who reminds you of the test cricket played some 15-20yrs back. He has proved time and again that he has loads of patience. Needs to improve his runrate and fine tune his technique to become a revelation for Pak batting. Everytime he went past fifty I hoped he scored a century and he disappointed on all occasions, today it was his day!!! :)

  • Wasim on October 28, 2011, 3:21 GMT

    Insha-ALLAH, iss bar to Pakistan hi jeetay ga!

  • Dummy4 on October 28, 2011, 1:58 GMT

    he is a player who may score 50 ro 100 but he can never win a match for pakistan and with this team i dont think they can win even a single test match the only thing they can do is loose/draw the match and any team score 300-350 they will need 2 days to score and once pak got out early definitely they will loose the match

  • Dummy4 on October 28, 2011, 1:01 GMT

    Great to see the guy get a ton, he really seems to have the attitude and ability to be a great player. However, it was quite fun to see how many fifties he was going to make before his first ton!

  • Aniruddha on October 27, 2011, 22:54 GMT

    Sri Lanka havent won since Murali retired. With their batsmen being exposed even in Dubai test ranking of no.5 is a bit too high for them.

  • Sai on October 27, 2011, 21:50 GMT

    Well done Azhar Ali :) Keep it up. Sri Lanka r not out of this match and have a good chance of winning still because if they can bowl pakistan for less than a 150 run lead tomorrow, then SL can bat well and remove the deficit and lead by about say 200-220 runs. Which wud b enough cuz it wud be the 4th/5th day by then and knowing Misbah and his timid captaincy, Pak wud definitely not go for the target.. but if they do, there is a chance of them collapsing (Sydney Test v Australia)... so this match is still even... have to wait n see who wins this exciting test!!! That's what test cricket is all about!!!

  • Sameer on October 27, 2011, 20:16 GMT

    Well Done Azhar! U r the future of Pakistan's Middle order, and a Bright one :)

  • Stark on October 27, 2011, 20:03 GMT

    I just hope this guy gets a chance in the ODI's as an opener like Amla!

    Also, Sadaf once again impressed in FC cricket by taking 5 wkts and I would love to see him in the ODI squad in this series and this time actually given a chance.

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