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September 3, 2013
Despite an unimpressive performance by the top order, leading to Pakistan finishing the opening day nine wickets down, batsman Azhar Ali felt his side was in a reasonably good position. Zimbabwe's bowlers held control in the opening session, reducing Pakistan to 27 for 3, before Azhar and captain Misbah-ul-Haq saved their side from further embarrassment with a stand of 93 for the fourth wicket.
Azhar top-scored with 78 and it was a typical workmanlike innings from him, coming off 185 balls. He admitted though that Pakistan should have respected the conditions better in the morning session, as the seamers managed movement and awkward bounce. A ninth-wicket stand of 67 between Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan took Pakistan close to the 250-mark.
"It was a hardworking innings on a slow track," Azhar said. "I had to work hard for my runs because they bowled in the good areas. And I think we ended up in a reasonably good position.
"With some moisture on the pitch, we had a plan to get through to lunch. But we lost three early wickets which didn't help. We could have done a bit better."
Pakistan batted positively after lunch as the pitch started to settle. Azhar, who batted cautiously as he approached his fifty, said that Misbah's calming influence was helpful. After Misbah fell against the run of play, the responsibility grew on Azhar. He looked set for his fifth Test century but fell chasing a wide, away-swinging delivery from Shingi Masakadza and edged to slip. Azhar didn't hide his annoyance, swinging his bat at thin air as he walked off with Pakistan at 182 for 8 with an hour left in the final session.
"I was looking for some runs and they tried to bowl away from me," Azhar said. "I should have kept my cool a little to get the hundred. It would have been nice to get another hundred. "
Since his debut in 2010, Azhar has played 15 of his 28 Tests (including the ongoing Test) in venues outside the subcontinent and the UAE. He credited coach Dav Whatmore for helping him adjust to conditions where batsmen are challenged.
"The coach has really helped me with my technique, especially with teaching me how to handle things in different places we play in," Azhar said. "In international cricket, you have to improve day by day, you have to come up with new plans and you have to keep thinking."
Having described the pitch as "slow" on day one, with the seamers collecting seven wickets, Azhar expects the pitch to take more turn as the game goes on, bringing Ajmal and Abdur Rehman into play.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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