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Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman lead way against modest attack

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Good to get red-ball practice - Zaman (1:44)

Fahkar Zaman enjoyed a productive workout against Leicestershire as Pakistan warmed up for the first Test at Lord's (1:44)

Pakistanis 321 for 9 (Azhar 73, Zaman 71, Salahuddin 69*) v Leicestershire
Scorecard

If Pakistan are to win a Test series in England for the first time in more than two decades, it seems likely Azhar Ali will need to lead the way with the bat.

Without some of those familiar names of recent times - the likes of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, who both averaged in excess of 40 as Pakistan drew here in 2016 - it will surely be incumbent upon Azhar to try to replace their runs and provide a steadying influence to a somewhat inexperienced batting order. Now aged 33, and with three centuries and three half-centuries from his previous eight Tests, much is expected of him.

So it would have been encouraging to see him some form on the first day of this two-day, non-first-class match in Leicester. After a modest start to the tour - he has a top-score of 15 after five first-class innings - he looked supremely comfortable here in cruising to an untroubled 73. On a sluggish pitch where run-scoring opportunities were not especially plentiful, he saw off the new ball patiently and put away anything short or over-pitched without fuss. Bringing up his half-century from 83 balls with his 10th four - a gorgeous cover drive that would have made Younis proud - he posted 121 for the first wicket with Fakhar Zaman.

There is a caveat. Leicestershire are not the strongest of the first-class counties - they finished bottom of Division Two of the County Championship in 2017 without a single win - and this was, effectively, their 2nd XI. Only two of those involved here - Lewis Hill and Ateeq Javid - played in their last Championship match - a victory, to be fair - and only one other member of this side (Dieter Klein) has featured in the Championship this season. If England were presented with such opposition immediately ahead of a Test series overseas there would be moans and they would not be entirely unjustified.

That having been said, there are some decent players involved. Klein, a left-arm seamer who gains skiddy pace from a quick arm, produced the ball of the day to account for Sami Aslam - pitching on line, it held its own to beat the outside edge and take the off stump - and later ended Azhar's innings. Attempting to cut, Azhar looked aghast when a thick under-edge brought the ball crashing into his own off-stump.

Zak Chappell would have strengthened the attack significantly, but sustained a shoulder injury just ahead of the game as he attempted to help his mother with some shopping bags. Which does rather beg the question: what had she bought and how strong is she? It is hoped he may be fit to return as early as mid-week.

Pakistan made a few changes, too. Identifying this game as a rare opportunity to allow some of their squad a game, they rested five likely members of their Test side, with Mohammad Amir reserved for brief bowls at intervals and before play on a pitch on the side of the square.

Usman Salahuddin took his chance to impress with a patient half-century but Saad Ali let his frustration get the better of him and was caught and bowled as he tried to make some progress against the spinners. Sarfraz Ahmed also fell in aggressive fashion: trying to repeat a slog-swept six from the previous ball, he gifted a catch to mid-on.

Zaman was almost as impressive as Azhar in that opening stand. Having played himself in with impressive patience - his first 75 deliveries realised a modest 34 runs - he then started to unfurl the attacking strokes that will be so familiar to those who saw him in England last year. Richard Jones, a seam bowler of some experience, was thrashed for six boundaries in an over and seven in 10 balls at one stage as Zaman, who struck six of them, made a late - and probably vain - bid for a Test place. He eventually fell to a catch to midwicket trying to thrash one into the Rutland countryside.

Impatience cost Faheem Ashraf, who was caught at cover, and Mohammad Abbas, caught at mid-on, and left Leicestershire's spinners, Javid and Aadil Ali - men with six first-class wickets between them - boasting figures of 4 for 70 from 20.5 overs. It was a pleasing enough way to spend a lovely summer's day, but you do wonder if it's like preparing for an Artic hike by nipping for an ice-cream.