Cricket continues to be its own worst enemy as farcical scenes broughtday two of Australia’s Test against Pakistan to an early close.
Veteran batsman Azhar Ali and opener Imam-ul-Haq scored big hundreds to help Pakistan dominate Australia on the second day of the opening Test in Rawalpindi.
Azhar notched 185 and Haq a career-best 157 to guide Pakistan to 4/476 against a hapless Australian attack on a placid and unresponsive Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium pitch.
Skipper Babar Azam declared an hour before the scheduled close in the hope of an early wicket, but Australia ended the day on 0-5 after bad light stopped play with 15 overs remaining.
There were farcical scenes before stumps. Both teams were out in the middle waiting for Australia’s innings to start but the roller was still going up and down the pitch, delaying proceedings.
When it got off the ground Shaheen Afridi took the new ball and was standing at the top of his mark ready to bowl but the umpires convened for several minutes and spoke with the players about the light.
If Afridi bowled, Australia would have been offered the chance to go off because facing a fast bowler in those conditions would have been, according to the umpires, unsafe.
So off-spinner Sajid Khan took the new ball and bowled the first over, nearly 10 minutes after David Warner and Usman Khawaja arrived at the crease. But that was all she wrote and the umpires took the players off for bad light.
Cricket writer Andrew McGlashan tweeted: “Cricket sets a high bar, but that’s been a reasonably farcical few minutes.”
Khawaja went into the sheds on five, while Warner was yet to get off the mark.
Azhar was delighted at scoring a hundred against the visitors. “I always enjoy scoring runs against Australia as they are one of the top teams and they challenge your abilities,” he said.
“It will be tough to bowl Australia out twice on this pitch, but I hope our bowlers do their best.”
Australian Marnus Labuschagne, meanwhile, said his side had a tough fight ahead.
“I think the only way you get yourself back into a game like this is by taking it day by day, over by over,” he said. “We know we can turn this game.”
The day began on a sombre note as players paid tribute to Aussie legend Shane Warne, who died of a suspected heart attack in Thailand Friday, with a minute’s silence. Both teams wore black arm bands, while the handful of early-morning spectators in the stands also stood in respect.
Pakistan added just 57 runs at snail’s pace in the morning session. Haq was the slowest of the Pakistan pair, adding just six runs in the first hour and not hitting a boundary until the 90th minute.
He was lucky to survive a caught-behind appeal on 143 off Nathan Lyon that the Australians didn’t challenge, when replays showed it hit the bat.
But Azhar put on a solid 208-run stand for the second wicket with Haq and then another 101 for the third wicket with Azam, who was run out for 36.
Azhar was finally caught reverse sweeping Labuschagne after batting for nearly nine hours as Mohammad Rizwan (29) and Iftikhar Ahmed (13) remained not out.
It was a hard toil for Australia’s attack with Labuschagne (1-53), Pat Cummins Cummins (1-62) and Nathan Lyon (1-161) among the wickets.
Spearheads Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood went wicketless for 71 and 53 runs respectively.
Pakistan lost only Imam-ul-Haq in the first two sessions as they added 149 runs after resuming the day on 1-245. Haq reached 150 before he was trapped LBW by Cummins soon after lunch.
Azhar lifted Lyon towards deep mid-on to complete his 19th century in his 92nd Test — his fourth against Australia in 12 matches.
Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998 for security reasons, and on Friday, at least 62 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack at a Shiite mosque in Peshawar, about 190 kilometres west of Rawalpindi.
Originally published as Australia-Pakistan Test descends into farce as cricket kicks another own goal