Azhar’s innings was a demonstration to England’s batsmen of how patience and a solid technique against spin can reap rewards in even the most challenging conditions. His marathon innings of 157 from 442 balls contributed to a match-winning third wicket stand of 216 with Younis that spanned over 80 overs.
Azhar Ali ( born February 19, 1985 in Lahore, Punjab) is a Pakistani international cricketer.
He made his Test debut for Pakistan against Australia in the first Test at Lord's in July 2010. Azhar is one of the few Pakistani cricketers (after the introduction of ODI) to play a test before ODI.
The 26 year-old first began to flourish when asked to open for his department, Khan Research Laboratories, in Pakistan’s 2006-07 Pentangular Cup competition, during which he averaged 80 over the course of the four matches. He enjoyed another good first-class season in 2007-08 and a solid one in 2008-09 which resulted in him earning an A-team call-up for the tour of Australia. While there he made a couple of dour half-centuries against a potent home attack, and did enough to earn himself a place in Pakistan’s starting eleven for their tour of England a year later, making his debut against Australia at Lord’s and benefiting from the PCB’s falling out with Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan.
Since then, the Lahore-born right-hander has become a fixture at number three for Pakistan and has epitomised new captain Misbah-ul-Haq’s cautious, but ultimately very successful, approach more than anyone. The match in Dubai was his 21st in Tests for Pakistan, during which he has managed a return of 1511 runs at an average of 43.17.
Along with the likes of Mohammad Hafeez and Asad Shafiq, Azhar is likely to be a fixture in Pakistan’s team for some time to come, and will become an even more important figure in their middle-order as and when Misbah and Younis hang up their boots in the not too distant future.
"We are hundred percent confident to win the match but obviously we have to take 10 wickets," said Azhar.
“We know it’s a good total and batsmen will feel pressure but we just can’t sit back because one good partnership can take match away from us. We have world class spinners and the manner in which wickets are falling if we get two-three out you will see flurry of wickets and their batting is under lot of pressure so we need breakthroughs," added the young one-down batsman.
"It is a great end of the day. We got just rewards for our perseverance with the ball. It would have been a tricky period for the openers but they have calmed the storm and set us for a good chase tomorrow," stated the off-spinner.
He added, "I would like not to block against the ball like we did in the last game and destroy us again. I think each of the batsmen will come up with plans different from the Abu Dhabi debacle.”
Azhar was equally impressive as he proved the perfect accomplice for the veteran middle-order batsman, and the pair’s match-changing stand was left on 194 runs by the close of play.
Azhar was in absolutely no hurry on the way to his second Test hundred and beyond, having previously reached exactly three figures on this same ground against Sri Lanka last year.
He eventually reached the milestone from the 319th ball he faced, with one of the most memorable shots of his long innings - a cut off Panesar for his fifth four.
He might have gone before his third-wicket partner Younus, for 84, but survived when Swann was just unable to hang on to a tough chance at second slip, very low to his left off the bowling of James Anderson.
"It was a good partnership but we have to go a long way and if we carry on with that we can stage a comeback in the match and put pressure on them. I think if we give them a 150-160 target we have a hope that we can fight and win," said Ali.
Ali praised England spinners Panesar and Swann.
"I think they are really good bowlers, no one threw his wickets and there were some good balls and sometimes we need to just bat and bat and it becomes easier," said Ali.
Ali hit ten boundaries and a six during his long stay at the crease which was seven minutes short of nine hours.
“I like this ground it is a great venue for me and I always perform well here,” he remarked hours after a marathon effort spanning nearly nine hours. “I have done well in the UAE,” added the No3 batsman, who topped the run charts for Pakistan in the series with 251 runs. He had topped the averages (65.75) in the earlier series held in the UAE against Sri Lanka scoring 263 runs from three Tests.
“Standing on the roof, I said to myself that if someone comes along and tells me to jump in return for a place in the Pakistan side, I’d do it. Now, the dream has become reality.”