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Pakistan- Australia Series

Ton-up Imam-ul-Haq punishes faltering Australia in first Test


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Photo: AFP

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Recalled opener Imam-ul-Haq cracked a brilliant maiden century Friday as Pakistan finished the opening day of the first Test against Australia on a commanding 245-1 in Rawalpindi.

The 26-year-old left-hander marked the first Test by Australia in Pakistan for 24 years with 132 not out, leaving the tourists frustrated on a dry and flat Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium pitch.

Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998 for security reasons, and on Friday at least 56 people were killed and nearly 200 wounded in a suicide bomb attack at a Shiite mosque in Peshawar, around 190 kilometres (120 miles) west of Rawalpindi. 

Officials have not yet commented on the blast or how it might affect the tour.

At the close Friday, veteran batsman Azhar Ali was unbeaten on 64, having added 140 for the unbroken second wicket after Pakistan won a crucial toss and opted to bat.

Haq put on a confident 105-run stand for the opening wicket with Abdullah Shafique as Australia used eight bowlers, but only spinner Nathan Lyon (1-87) managed a scalp in 31 tireless overs.

Shafique miscued a lofted shot off Lyon in the penultimate over before lunch for 44.

Shafique was shaping well after getting a life on 21 when Travis Head dropped a sharp chance at leg slip off Lyon, who extracted spin from the outset.

Shafique hit three boundaries and a six during his enterprising knock.

That brought Azhar to the crease, and the Pakistanis dominated the Australian attack -- forcing skipper Pat Cummins to use part-time spinners Head, Steven Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, but to no effect.  

Haq, playing his first Test since December 2019, drove pacer Mitchell Starc to the cover boundary to complete his century in 277 minutes. 

He has batted for 379 minutes, hitting 15 boundaries and two sixes, also improving on his previous best of 76 made against the same opponents in Dubai in October 2018.

When Haq reached the milestone the 12,000 crowd stood as one to applaud.

Azhar was also in sublime form, playing spin and pace with confidence in his 235-minute knock, spiced with four boundaries and a six.

Australia will rue their questionable selection as they went into the Test with three pacers, a fast bowling allrounder and a lone spinner in Lyon.

In contrast, Pakistan chose two spinners, a part-time slow bowler and two frontline quicks.

Australia agreed to tour only after being assured of top security.