A team has its best batsmen in the top four positions and the No. 3 spot is relatively the more crucial one. When the openers fail to give the required start, then it is the two-down batsman’s responsibility to pull the team back onto the track. The position demands the ability to play under pressure and the power to play longer innings. And if the No. 3 batsman is the team’s captain itself, it is all the better as he will have the sense of responsibility as a batsman and will play extremely careful keeping in mind his duty as the skipper. Although Azhar Ali is not the Pakistan captain anymore but he realises what is required of a batting captain.

In the ongoing first Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan came out to bat for the first time on the second day and they were given an excellent start by their opening batsmen Sami Aslam and Shan Masood. Sri Lanka, who have been going through a rough patch for a few months now, across formats, finally put up a competitive 400+ total for the first time in six Tests. When the hosts found themselves in the driver’s seat after their first innings, they did not smile for a very long time. They failed to make an early breakthrough as the Pakistan openers built up a stand of 114 before Perera drew first blood.

Azhar Ali, who has an experience of 60 Tests, came out to bat at the vital No. 3. Azhar has been in a great touch for some time now; he is coming off two back-to-back centuries in the last two Tests he has played. Under the terrible heat of middle-east, Azhar found support from Asad Shafiq, on the other end, as the duo steadied Pakistan’s innings by lunch. There were no wickets in the second session but the bowlers did try to make their presence felt in a near-dead session. Nuwan Pradeep found some reverse swing, Herath the turn but since the batsmen showed least interest in attacking, all the efforts put from the bowlers went in vain.

Despite the fact that the entry to the Zayed Stadium was free, the spectators were hardly seen in the stands. Considering how boring cricket was played, especially on the second day, no could really complaint against the low attendance. However, there was a moment when the less amount of fans also managed to make the loudest applause and that was when former Pakistan Captain Azhar Ali reached his 5,000 Test runs. He became just the eighth and fourth fastest batsmen to reach the milestone. And if you check the numbers, his average in the last 12 months has been better the big four- Root, Kohli, Williamson and Smith.


In the last 10 innings, Azhar now has the scores of two fifties, a double century and two hundreds to show off on his CV. He has been in a good form ever since Pakistan’s tour of Australia earlier this year where he notched up his second Test double. Being one of the most experienced guys in the team, he has played enough five-day game in the UAE. He averages 58.65 in 21 Tests which includes six tons and 12 fifties. Although he missed a century on Sunday, where he thoroughly deserved it, Pakistan would have breathed sigh of relief watching him hitting the ball without any troubles. However, he cannot always take his team ahead single-handedly. Similar to this innings, Azhar will need support from his teammates to put up a competitive total for Yasir Shah and Co to defend it.

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