PERTH: Babar Azam reinforced his standing as Pakistan’s tailsman, scoring a commanding unbeaten century at the start of the three-day pink-ball tour match against Australia ‘A’ here on Monday.
Test stalwart Asad Shafiq also reached triple figures before Pakistan went to stumps at 336-3 at Perth Stadium.
A strong Australia ‘A’ pace attack led by Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson toiled as Babar (157) and Asad (119) piled on a colossal 276-run partnership.
The hosts weren’t helped by a pink Kookaburra ball which quickly lost its hardness and didn’t offer much even under lights on a tame pitch.
Babar had a lucky escape when he glanced his second ball faced down the leg-side and a diving wicket-keeper Alex Carey was only able to get a fingertip to it.
From there, it was a chanceless and masterful knock highlighted by the frequent use of a beautifully-timed straight drive.
Pakistan’s T20 skipper reached his century off just 126 balls and had plundered 24 boundaries by the time he walked off the ground. Having stamped himself as one of the world’s best white-ball batters, Babar will be looking to carry his sparkling form into the Test arena.
Babar was the top-scorer with 99 when Australia and Pakistan squared off last October in Abu Dhabi, where the hosts won by 373 runs to claim the series.
The right-hander has averaged 53 from his past 11 Test innings including that knock.
Test prospect Riley Meredith snared two early wickets after Pakistan captain Azhar Ali won the toss and elected to bat.
Tasmanian speedster Meredith delivered the highlight of Monday’s opening session, coming around the wicket to left-hander Shan Masood and sending down a vicious bouncer which the opener fended to Abbott at point.
Azhar, who had replaced Sarfraz Ahmed as the Test leader, was the first to when was trapped in front by Michael Neser for 11. Needing a big innings after being a complete flop across the T20 series, Haris Sohail made just 18 when he was caught at the wicket off Meredith.
The day-night match is doubling as a national selection shootout ahead of the first Test at the Gabba starting on Nov 21, with Travis Head, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Joe Burns and Will Pucovski all lining up for Australia ‘A’.
Coach Justin Langer and chief selector Trevor Hohns will sit down on Wednesday to pick their squad for the Gabba, with Harris, Khawaja and Burns competing to open the batting alongside David Warner.
PAKISTAN (1st Innings):
Shan Masood c Abbott b Meredith 22
Azhar Ali lbw b Neser 11 Haris Sohail c Carey b Meredith 18 Asad Shafiq not out 119
Babar Azam not out 157 EXTRAS (B-4, LB-1, W-1, NB-3) 9
TOTAL (for three wkts, 90 overs) 336 FALL OF WKTS: 1-13, 2-47, 3-60 TO BAT: Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Yasir Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Imran Khan, Nasim Shah. BOWLING (to-date): Neser 22-7-49-1; Richardson 22-5-61-0 (1nb); Abbott 20-2-78-0 (2nb, 1w); Meredith 12-1-73-2; Head 14-0-70-0.
AUSTRALIA ‘A’: M.S. Harris, J.A. Burns, U.T. Khawaja, T.M. Head, W.J. Pucovski, C.T. Bancroft, A.T. Carey, S.A. Abbott, M.G. Neser, J.A. Richardson, R.P. Meredith.
UMPIRES: S.J. Nogajski and P. Wilson. MATCH REFEREE: R.W. Stratford.