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  • Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 2nd Test, SSC, Colombo, 2nd day

Azhar Ali bright on rain-hit day

The Report by Sidharth Monga
July 1, 2012
Pakistan 488 for 4 (Hafeez 196, Ali 157, Herath 2-143) v Sri Lanka
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Azhar Ali joined Mohammad Hafeez in making a big century © Associated Press
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The Colombo weather hurt Pakistan's push for a result, allowing only 44.2 overs on the second day, during which the visitors added 154 for 3 to their overnight 334. It could have been worse for Pakistan after the slow start they made to the day, but their batsmen showed more urgency as the clouds gathered.

Azhar Ali might have slowed down in the 90s, but he made up for it through some urgent accumulation after the mark even as rain and Rangana Herath countered the progress. Mohammad Hafeez fell four short of what would have been a maiden double, and Younis Khan continued to provide a case for DRS. Herath bowled a 23-overs spell - 20 of them today - to provide Sri Lanka some sort of control.

Ali, who specialises in scoring inconspicuously, remained the centre of attention on the second day. He spent 45 balls in the 90s, but scored 54 off the next 75 balls he faced, once again through ones and twos, almost unnoticed. This was the first time since the infamous Karachi Test of 2008-09 that two Pakistan batsmen reached 150 in the same innings. The two men, Hafeez and Ali, also put together the highest partnership against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka - 287.

Ali faced eight dots each on 98 and 99 as Hafeez added 24 to his overnight 172 while Ali moved from 92 to 99. Hafeez seemed bent on beating Ali to the landmark, but missed with a slog to a Herath delivery that was fuller than expected. As the ball hit the leg stump, Herath avoided conceding 100 runs without a wicket, something he has been guilty of only once in his career.

Ali was not to be ruffled, though. He remained patient, waited till the field came up, and went after one wide delivery to go from 99 to 103, his second century against Sri Lanka. That boundary was the morning's 37th run in 14.2 overs, and it didn't owe to the conditions, which were about as friendly as on day one. Nuwan Kulasekara once beat the edge, and Herath got one to spin past the edge, but that was about all the assistance the bowlers received on the second morning. There was an obligatory outside edge that fell well short.

Ali steadily picked up the pace after reaching his hundred even as Younis Khan felt his way into the innings. An afternoon shower then forced the lunch break 12 minutes before schedule. The rain cost about an hour and 32 minutes of play after which Pakistan were decidedly more urgent. Mahela Jayawardene interestingly didn't go for pace to make umpires wonder if they should walk off in gloomy conditions.

Against Herath's spin and Angelo Mathews' medium-pace, both Ali and Younis relished. Pakistan added 84 in 18 overs after the break; they had scored 70 in the 26.2 overs before it. Neither of the two had to play a shot in anger as Sri Lanka operated with fields resembling middle overs in an ODI. After a slow start, Younis was approaching the 50-strike-rate when he was given lbw on 32 even though he was hit outside the line of off, the third dodgy decision against him in three innings. One of these days he might break his Provident Fund to pay for the technology required for DRS in matches involving Pakistan.

Ali continued smoothly, and duly reached his 150 with a dink down the ground even as Misbah-ul-Haq improvised at the other end. When Ali tried the same, he top-edged a reverse-sweep to fall for 157, equalling his personal best. It was as if the elements didn't like Herath's removal after a spell today of 20-2-57-2. A few overs after he was taken off, the rain arrived again, forcing players to take tea 20 minutes before the rescheduled break at 3.40pm.

Persistent drizzle meant it was the end of the day's play too. An overnight declaration might sound a stretch, but wasn't completely an outlandish idea given how the track shows signs of life only in the morning session.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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