Hafeez 224 builds commanding lead

Written by  Published by:Pakistan Views Thursday, 30 April 2015 21:10

Khulna: Mohammad Hafeez had missed a double-century twice in the past after coming close. He was dismissed for 196 against Sri Lanka in 2012 and had fallen short by three runs last year against New Zealand. But continuing on the flawless effort of the second day in Khulna, and on his recent Test form in general, Hafeez finally passed the landmark.

By the time he was dismissed for 224, the best by a Pakistan batsman against Bangladesh, Hafeez had helped his team strengthen their hold on the Test with a lead of 80, which then swelled to 205 by the end of the day after half-centuries from Misbah-ul-Haq, Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed.

It wasn't a surprise that he slowed down after entering 190s. It took him 14 deliveries to get off 190. Then, after reaching 198 with a crisp straight drive off Mohammad Shahid, Hafeez had to wait 11 more deliveries to find the couple he needed. As Taijul Islam drifted on to the leg side, Hafeez paddled fine and scampered through for the second run, completing his double-century in 286 deliveries.

The calmness of Hafeez's celebration belied the enormity of the landmark. He took his helmet off, raised the bat, offering nothing more than a smile, then kneeled down for thesajda. He smashed a boundary immediately after passing 200, but assumed a quieter approach thereafter, which did not bode well for Bangladesh. But after looking settled for more, Hafeez was unlucky to glove a wide delivery down the leg side from Shuvagata Hom straight into the hands of leg gully.

Hafeez was almost unbreakable, and over large portions of the day, so was everyone else around him. The Bangladesh bowlers lacked penetration on a slow pitch, offering regular doses of boundary-balls, and the batsmen were never really made to work hard for runs. The most glaring for Bangladesh was the ineffectiveness of Shakib Al Hasan, who had a ten-wicket haul in his last Test at the ground, but with figures of 31-3-122-0, he was the most expensive of the frontline bowlers.

With Azhar Ali, Hafeez added 227, the second double-century partnership between the two. The 62-run third-wicket stand between Hafeez and Younis Khan took Pakistan past Bangladesh's total in the 87th over. And by tea, another 63-run partnership between Hafeez and Misbah had taken Pakistan past 400.

All through the day, the moment the Bangladesh spinners tried to flatten the trajectory, the ball sat up and was worked away to the leg side. Hafeez had scored most of his boundaries in that direction on the second day and he started with a pull in the first over of the third when Shakib pitched short. He reached his 150 in the seventh over of the morning with a calm push to mid-off.

Azhar, too, waited for that length and picked up a couple of boundaries on either side of the pitch off Shakib, the second one bringing up the double-century partnership. But just when Azhar looked set for a century, he was surprised by a quicker delivery from Shuvagata. The offspinner extracted just enough turn from the pitch to beat Azhar's lazy push and hit the middle stump.

The wicket was a cue for Shuvagata to continue bowling quicker through the air. He surprised Younis with bounce and turn early on his innings and had Hafeez making a rare error. Attempting a sweep, Hafeez missed another quicker delivery to be hit on the front pad. Tamim Iqbal, the stand-in captain, asked for a review but the impact was outside the line of off stump.

Four overs later, Hafeez hoisted Shuvagata over long-on for a six that brought up the team's 300 and Pakistan were off again. With Younis employing an array of shots and his partnership with Hafeez reaching 50 in 69 balls, Bangladesh were forced to take the new ball in the 84th over.

Rubel's outswing surprised Younis more than once but it was Taijul's flight that caught him out on the wrong foot. Bowling first change with the new ball, Taijul, out of nowhere, got one to grip the surface. Stuck in the crease, Younis was squared up completely as the ball spun away from middle-stump line to graze the off stump.

Misbah arrived and launched his third delivery, from Taijul, down the ground for a six. He was quick on his feet against the spinners and hit powerful pulls, reverse-sweeps and another six down the ground. Misbah could only stretch his innings to 59 before top-edging a sweep to deep backward square leg, but his 66-run partnership with Shafiq had given Bangladesh no respite.

The late aggression of Sarfraz, who scored 51 off 54 balls in a rapid half-century stand with Shafiq, had almost slammed the door on the home side.

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