Azhar Ali’s 14th Test century anchored Pakistan to a first innings total of 376 as the tourists batted with exaggerated care on the second day of the third and final Test against the West Indies on Thursday.
Left to negotiate 11 overs to the close of play at Windsor Park in Dominica, the West Indies reached 14 without loss in reply.
Pakistan’s innings occupied all of 146.3 overs at a scoring rate of just over two-and-a-half runs per over, a puzzlingly pedestrian rate of progress on a benign pitch, especially as victory would give Pakistan their first-ever Test series win in the Caribbean in eight attempts.
After crawling along in the morning session, when only 58 runs came off 28 overs in two-and-a-half hours of play for the loss of Younis Khan’s wicket, the tourists attempted to accelerate with captain Misbah-ul-Haq releasing the shackles of virtual strokelessness in getting to 59.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed was by far the most enterprising of all in the Pakistan batting line-up though, being ninth out for 51 off 73 balls.
“We wanted to get over 400 but losing wickets in the afternoon caused us to lose a bit of momentum,” Ahmed explained after the day’s play.
“I just went out there with a positive intent, looking to put the bowlers off and keep the score moving along.”
Off-spinner Roston Chase was the prime beneficiary of the visitors’ belated attempt at acceleration, finishing with four for 103 while captain Jason Holder claimed three for 71, including two wickets off consecutive deliveries after tea that ended any reasonable prospect for Pakistan getting to a total in excess of 400.
Chase ended Azhar Ali’s eight-hour vigil just after lunch in bowling the opening batsman for 127 before adding the wickets of Asad Shafiq and Misbah.
Painfully slow at the start of his innings, the Pakistan skipper showed a greater degree of urgency through the afternoon, adding 51 and completing a 39th fifty in Test cricket.
His intentions for the final session were obvious when he smashed leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo back overhead for four and then hoisted Chase for six over long-on.
But the bowler had the last laugh with the next delivery as an attempted reverse-sweep by Misbah gave wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich the opportunity to make amends for two earlier errors in the innings.
While 84 runs came in the middle session of the day, it still could not adequately compensate for their bewilderingly slow rate of scoring in the morning when both Ali and Misbah seemed more intent on occupation of the crease than scoring runs.
Unbeaten on 85 overnight with the total at a promising 169 for two, Ali added 37 of the morning’s 58 runs in getting to his 14th Test century and second in consecutive matches.
Yet it was not one of his more memorable efforts and by the time he fell, missing an attempted sweep at Chase, he had faced 334 balls and struck two sixes and eight fours Misbah had come to the crease after Younis, who is also bowing out of international cricket after this match, was trapped leg-before by West Indies captain Jason Holder for 18 inside the first hour of a bright, sultry morning.
He should have departed without scoring but for another error behind the stumps by Dowrich.
Having put down Babar Azam off Bishoo the day before, the wicketkeeper was inexplicably wrong-footed and failed to hold on to a low chance to the exasperation of Holder the suffering bowler.