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Babar Azam, Azhar Ali centuries rescue Pakistanis

Babar Azam celebrates his half-century AFP

CSA Invitation XI 45 for 1 (Brand 30*, Amir 1-14) and 318 for 7 dec (Ackerman 103*, Faheem 2-45) lead Pakistanis 306 for 7 dec (Babar 104*, Azhar 100, Mnyaka 3-45) by 57 runs

Centuries from Azhar Ali and Babar Azam headlined a positive second day for Pakistan, rescuing the visitors from what threatened to be an embarrassing first-innings capitulation against a Cricket South Africa Invitation XI in Benoni.

Three wickets from seamer Thandolwethu Mnyaka had overseen a disappointing top-order collapse early, with Pakistan reduced to 112 for 5 at one point, 206 runs behind the hosts' 318. It left Pakistan requiring the services of their in-form batsman Azhar Ali and Babar Azam, the one who looks set to take his place for several years to come.

Pakistan featured three players vying for the opening slot ahead of the first Test at SuperSport Park, beginning on December 26. Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman departed for 23 and 19 respectively, while Shan Masood, batting at number three, managed 41 before being castled by 25-year old Mnyaka.

Haris Sohail and Asad Shafiq were made short work of, bringing Azhar and Babar together at the crease. The pair combined for a 155-run partnership, with Azhar retiring out after completing his hundred. When captain Sarfraz Ahmed was dismissed, Babar had reached three figures, and with Pakistan just 12 shy of the CSA's Invitation XI first innings score, they decided to declare.

That gave the CSA XI 12 overs at the end of the day to see out, which they managed for the loss of one wicket. Joshua Richards was bowled by Mohammad Amir in the third over of the innings, but Neil Brand and Tshepang Dithole saw out the rest of the day without further setbacks, putting 45 on the board. The game may be headed for a draw, but Pakistan have been left with much to take away. The form of their two best batsmen will reassure them, but out-of-form openers against an attack the calibre of South Africa's is an uninviting prospect.