Confronted with bowling that was toothless at best and ragged at worst, Azhar Ali marched to 302 not out - his first Test triple-century - to anchor Pakistan's mammoth first innings total of 579 for 3 declared
West Indies 69 for 1 (Brathwaite 32*, Bravo 14*, Yasir 1-13) trail Pakistan 579 for 3 dec (Azhar 302*, Aslam 90, Bishoo 2-125) by 510 runs Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Confronted with bowling that was toothless at best and ragged at worst, Azhar Ali marched to 302 not out, becoming the fourth Pakistan player to score a Test triple-hundred. Azhar's marathon 469-ball knock anchored Pakistan's first-innings total of 579 for 3 declared, before West Indies moved to 69 for 1 in the 22 overs they had to face till stumps.
After having shared a 215-run opening stand with Sami Aslam on the first day, Azhar was well supported on the second day too, first by Asad Shafiq and then by debutant Babar Azam, before Misbah-ul-Haq played an attacking cameo leading into the declaration. Pakistan scored at well over 4 runs an over on day two, adding 300 runs in 65.3 overs as West Indies progressively fell to pieces with the ball and in the field.
Resuming the day on 146, Azhar was solid and assured right from the outset and displayed more of the lovely drives and powerful cuts and pulls that lit up the first day. He went into tea at 194, but got to his milestone within two balls of the resumption of play - a leg-side delivery from Shannon Gabriel was tucked fine for four, after which a wide one was cut past backward point for the four that took him past 200. A salute and a set of nine push-ups followed; by that stage, West Indies' fielders looked too ragged to follow suit. It took Azhar only a further 112 balls to bring up his triple-ton, powering his side towards a declaration that put West Indies out of their misery.
Earlier in the day, Azhar and Shafiq had added 73 runs to the overnight total of 279 for 1, taking their second-wicket partnership to 137. The pair built on their solid platform with relative ease, facing little pressure either from West Indies' bowlers or from a pink ball that did not do much in the air. While Shafiq played the odd false shot, Azhar looked compact and sharp, quick to pounce on anything that was short or wide. He greeted Roston Chase with successive lofted shots for four and six, and also played a number of assured sweep shots.
The partnership ended when Shafiq drilled a return catch to Devendra Bishoo to depart for 67. That moment of success provided only fleeting relief for West Indies; debutant Babar Azam came in and settled down swiftly to provide capable support to Azhar. He glided his way to a half-century that seemed to come far too easily, before driving to Holder at covers to give West Indies their second and last breakthrough of the day. Thereafter, Azhar and Misbah added 62 off 76 in a partnership that wasn't particularly graceful - with a number of skied miscues - but served Pakistan's purpose. Azhar brought up his triple-century in much the same manner as he had brought up his century, with a drive wide of mid-off for four. On that jubilant note, Pakistan declared.
West Indies had their moments, but were not able to capitalise on them. Bishoo found Azam's outside edge early in his innings, only for the ball to fly to the right of slip. A few overs later, Chase got Azhar to nick to slip, where Jermaine Blackwood spilled a sharp chance that should have been taken.
A more judicious use of reviews would also have helped. Gabriel, who clocked up impressive speeds in the first over of the day, seamed one back into Shafiq that clipped the top of his back pad on its way to the wicketkeeper. The appeal, seemingly for a caught behind, was turned down, but replays indicated that the ball would have gone on to hit enough of the top of middle for the umpire to overturn the not-out decision. West Indies didn't review.
The review West Indies did opt for left them red-faced. Jason Holder bowled an indipping low full toss at Azhar, went up in appeal for lbw and reviewed the not-out decision, believing the ball had brushed pad before bat. Replays, however, showed that the ball had gone nowhere near the pad and had been middled.
These errors paled in comparison with West Indies' shoddy bowling and often-farcical fielding, which undid the early pressure that Gabriel and Holder had created. While Bishoo bowled a number of short balls and half-volleys, Cummins repeatedly drifted onto the batsmen's pads. Gabriel then bowled a terrible spell after tea in which he struggled for line and length and bowled three big no-balls - and at least another three that were not called.
In the closing stages of the day, Pakistan's bowlers provided a contrast to West Indies' effort. Sohail Khan and Mohammad Amir bowled a fuller length and got good shape on the new ball, while Yasir Shah got more grip and turn than the West Indies spinners had managed at any stage. He was rewarded with the wicket of Leon Johnson, whom he trapped in front for 15. But Kraigg Brathwaite and Darren Bravo then provided a reminder of how good the wicket still was, batting out the rest of the session in solid fashion. With a mountain still to climb, West Indies require much more solidity in the days ahead.