Azhar tunes up with another century

Pakistanis 363 for 5 (Azhar 145, Misbah-ul-Haq 68, Younis 59, Archer 4-49) v Sussex

This was a gentle day by the seaside for the Pakistanis. Azhar Ali made his second century in two innings as they eased to 363 for 5 while Misbah-ul-Haq spent useful time in the middle albeit against a weakened Sussex attack.

Azhar, who reached his hundred from 205 balls, and Younis Khan added 125 for the third wicket. Azhar then put on a further 146 with Misbah; their three-figure stand came up when the Pakistan Test vice-captain swept a six over the roof of the pavilion at square-leg. The over-rate for the day was so good that the innings was only one short of the mandatory 100 overs by stumps.

Sussex had only returned home at 3am following last night's T20 match against Glamorgan in Cardiff, so the five players from that fixture who were named in this XI could be forgiven for being a touch bleary-eyed.

One of those who did not make the trek to Wales and back was debutant Jofra Archer, a former West Indies Under-19 allrounder with a British passport who is aiming to secure a full-time contract with Sussex, and he enjoyed a memorable first day in first-class cricket, finishing with 4 for 49 in a wholehearted display of nippy seam bowling. "I hope I've put my foot in the door," he said. "The coach said just enjoy it, but I was a bit nervous."

A telling part of the day came early on and reinforced that England will view Pakistan's opening pair as a weak link to target. Shan Masood became Archer's maiden first-class wicket when he struck with his 11th ball, finding a touch of extra bounce as he slanted the ball across the batsman to take the outside edge.

Archer's morning got better when he trapped Mohammad Hafeez, who had been dropped on 15, playing across a full delivery. This meant that Hafeez's first three innings on the tour had failed to produce a substantial score or substantial time in the middle.

Pakistan would have been 53 for 3 had Azhar been taken low at second slip by Harry Finch, the drop denying club debutant, Abidine Sakande, a wicket. It was not, though, a day without good news for Sakande, who found out he had achieved a 2:1 in a Human Science degree from Oxford University.

Younis escaped an inside edge past the stumps off Ajmal Shahzad before reaching double figures, but he and Azhar soon settled against bowling that, from the seamers other than Archer, veered far too frequently into the pads.

A lapse in concentration, or the feeling that enough was enough, appeared the likely route to a wicket and so it proved during the afternoon session when Younis advanced at Danny Briggs but only picked out mid-off.

During their innings, Younis and Azhar both passed milestones: 16,000 and 8,000 first-class runs respectively. That the junior partner has half felt quite apt; sooner rather than later the baton will be passed as the fulcrum of Pakistan's batting.

Azhar's average outside of Asia is 28.70 compared with 52.36 in UAE, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh combined but he has the defensive technique to withstand England's bowlers. This is a tour for him to cement his senior standing in the batting order in conditions he has found less comfortable.

He was dropped again on 57 at deep mid-off, then on 72 an outside edge ran fine of first slip. He eventually brought up his century after tea with his 16th boundary from 205 balls.

Misbah was not entirely convincing to begin with but in the final session settled into his familiar block-and-bash mode against the spinners as Briggs and Will Beer operated in tandem. He skewed one lofted shot against Briggs over mid-off then started to pick off Beer: it was a shame a young legspinner only bowled seven overs in the day, they have to bowl to learn. Misbah's fifty came off 65 balls when he swept Briggs for his ninth four. Moeen Ali will be in for a challenge if he has to bowl extended spells during the series.

Sussex took the new ball as soon as it became available and in the fourth over, Archer claimed his third wicket of the day when Misbah padded up to a ball that would have taken off stump. Archer struck again when Azhar was late on a pull and was taken by the keeper. It is the mark of a promising bowler when his last spell of the day can be as good as the first.

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  • Azhar tunes up with another century

    Azhar Ali made his second century in two innings as they eased to 363 for 5 while Misbah-ul-Haq spent useful time in the middle albeit against a weakened Sussex attack