After a grafting opening day, the runs flowed freely on Day 2 of the first Test between Pakistan and Australia in Dubai, with 338 posted – 119 more than the previous day.
The tourists’ hopes for early wickets were dashed by captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq, who added 72 to Pakistan’s modest overnight total before the skipper was caught by Mitchell Johnson off Steve Smith’s bowling.
But that brought Sarfaz Ahmed to the crease, and the wicketkeeper and Asad put on a 124-run stand in just 22 overs. Asad became Stephen O’Keefe’s first Test victim, dismissed for 89 with Pakistan’s score at 6-415.
But Sarfaz continued the onslaught to bring up his second Test century from only 80 balls, which he followed up with a memorable celebration, jubilantly running almost all the way to the boundary rope after reaching triple figures courtesy of a sparkling chip shot over cover.
A 500-plus first innings total loomed, but Australia’s spinners mopped up the tail. O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon finishing with two wickets apiece as Pakistan reached 454.
Mitchell Johnson forced Zulfiqar Babar to retire hurt when he hit him on the finger, but Australia’s overreliance on the menacing paceman was exposed in the oppressive Dubai heat. He was typically economical but could not break through for a wicket, while Peter Siddle and Mitchell Marsh also came up empty.
Although Smith made the belated breakthrough, he was expensive – battered for 50 runs off six overs.
But Australia’s openers ensured the Test remained evenly poised at stumps as a swashbuckling David Warner (75no off 77 balls) and a cautious Chris Rogers (31 off 110 balls) saw the tourists through to 113 without loss. Warner brought up his sixth score of 50 or more in succession.
Stud of the day
Sarfaz Ahmed’s innings was special, blasting 14 boundaries in his 109 before being stumped by counterpart Brad Haddin. After Pakistan clawed its way to a run rate just past two an over on the first day, Sarfaz upped the tempo to put his side in a commanding position.
Pakistan could have heaped the pressure on an Australian side weary from more than a day and a half in the field, but Chris Rogers was dropped at slip with the score on 37. It was a crucial missed chance that may have taken the opportunity to press for a win away from Pakistan.
With wickets difficult to come by, this so-far intriguing Test looks increasingly likely to end in a draw – unless Pakistan can claim some quick scalps in the morning of Day 3, or if Australia can swiftly erase the current 341-run deficit and achieve a handy first innings lead by the end of the day.
Sarfaz’s 80-ball ton was the second-fastest Test century ever scored by a wicketkeeper. Adam Gilchrist’s legendary 57-ball century in Perth against England during the 2006-07 Ashes – the second-fastest of all time – is the only better effort by a gloveman in Test history.