Azhar and Aslam put Pakistan in command


Azhar Ali made a magnificent first Test century outside Asia and Sami Aslam scored his maiden half-century as Pakistan dominated day two against England at Edgbaston.

James Anderson (1-32) dismissed Mohammad Hafeez (0) in the first over of the day in the third Test on Thursday, but recalled opener Aslam (82) and Azhar (139) shared a second-wicket stand of 181 to put the tourists well on top.

Assured 20-year-old opener Aslam, playing only his third Test, missed out on a first international hundred when he was run out, but Azhar took his tally of Test centuries to 10 before he was caught off the last ball of the day from Chris Woakes as Pakistan closed on 257-3 in reply to 297.

Anderson was twice warned for running on the pitch on a punishing day for the England bowlers, with Azhar returning to form by showing his class in a stylish knock in which he was put down by Joe Root on 38 and Moeen Ali with 67 to his name to give Pakistan a great chance of taking a 2-1 lead in the four-match series.

England would have been hopeful of rolling Pakistan over cheaply when Hafeez slapped the fourth ball of the day from Anderson to Gary Ballance at point without a run on the board.

Aslam, preferred to the out-of-sorts Shan Masood, and Azhar showed great application to nullify the threat of a below-par England attack and took the opportunity to punish any loose deliveries.

Anderson showed his frustration when umpire Joel Wilson inspected the pitch due to concerns about the seamer's follow through before the tourists moved on to 72-1 at lunch.

Azhar was put down by Root at second slip just after the break and the number three brought up a deserved half-century by punching Steven Finn (0-44) through the covers for three.

The watchful Aslam was also raising his bat after sweeping Moeen to the fine-leg boundary to pass 50 and danced down the track to lift the spinner for four down the ground as England ran out of ideas on a good track.

Azhar had another life when Moeen (0-63) failed to take a sharp chance off his own bowling before lofting the spinner for a straight six and the impressive Aslam followed suit as the runs continued to come easily for the tourists.

The stand finally ended when left-hander Aslam was run out by James Vince going for a quick single that was never on with a ton there for the taking, but Azhar was not to be denied and copied his captain Misbah-ul-Haq's press-ups celebrations after ending a wait of over 13 months for a Test century.

Anderson was warned for a second time, while Finn returned soon after going off holding his hamstring as England continued to toil but ended the day on a high note when Woakes (1-52) had Azhar caught by Alastair Cook at first slip in the final act of a one-sided day, leaving Younis Khan unbeaten on 21.