Azhar lauds 'special' Shafiq


Azhar Ali was full of praise for "special" Pakistan team-mate Asad Shafiq after his record-breaking century held up Australia on day four of the first Test.

Shafiq was unbeaten on exactly 100 when stumps were drawn late on Sunday night at the Gabba as the tourists showed great defiance to close on 382-8, needing an unlikely 108 runs for victory on the final day.

The brilliant Shafiq has now scored nine Test tons batting at number six, bettering the mark set by West Indies legend Garry Sobers.

Azhar, who made 71 on a punishing day for the Australia bowlers, said Shafiq deserves great credit for the way he has gone about his business in the middle order.

"He always batted brilliantly with the tail," Azhar said. "He always loved to bat up the order, but he performed for us at number six. Especially scoring [nine] centuries at number six is not easy.

"Our lower order didn't really have very good averages, but he bats with them very well and he scored hundreds, it's a very special achievement. He has scored a lot of runs also, he's averaging 40-plus, which is a very good achievement."

Azhar added: "He's a special player. I've always rated him as a very fine player, because batting at number six is never easy.

"But as a team plan, he started batting [up the order], but again the team manager thinks that this is our best combination. As team players we are always willing to play wherever our team needs.

"He's a brilliant player who can bat at any number. Hopefully he gets his number soon.

"He bats at number six really well. He could probably be better than any of us [in that position]. That's probably the reason he got back at number six. Sometimes you have to make decisions according to the situation, according to the team plan.

"That's why I went to open the batting, because of the requirement of the team. It's a team game, so we're all happy with what the team demands of us."

The tourists lost Wahab Riaz (30) in the final over of a day which was prolonged when Steve Smith took the extra half hour, but Azhar is hopeful they can still make Australia work for victory on the final day.

"Obviously the wicket in the last over really hurt," he said. "It still would have been a big task, but it looks a bit bigger now because we have only two wickets.

"But still Asad is there, so we have hope that if he carries on - and Yasir Shah and Rahat [Ali] can bat with him as long as they can - we can actually get closer at least."