Azhar Ali's 127 guided Pakistan to 376 in their first innings against Pakistan. © Getty Images

Azhar Ali’s 127 guided Pakistan to 376 in their first innings against Pakistan. © Getty Images

Azhar Ali’s 14th Test century anchored Pakistan to a first-innings total of 376 as the side batted with exaggerated care on the second day of the third and final Test against West Indies on Thursday (May 11).

Left to negotiate 11 overs to the close of play at Windsor Park in Dominica, West Indies reached 14 without loss in reply.

Pakistan’s innings occupied all of 146.3 overs at a scoring rate of just over two-and-a-half runs per over, a puzzlingly pedestrian rate of progress on a benign pitch, especially as victory would give Pakistan their first-ever Test series win in the Caribbean in eight attempts.

After crawling along in the morning session, when only 58 runs came off 28 overs in two-and-a-half hours of play for the loss of Younis Khan’s wicket, Pakistan attempted to accelerate with Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain, releasing the shackles of virtual strokelessness in getting to 59.

Sarfraz Ahmed, the wicketkeeper-batsman, was by far the most enterprising of all in the Pakistan batting line-up though, being ninth out for 51 off 73 balls.

“We wanted to get over 400 but losing wickets in the afternoon caused us to lose a bit of momentum,” Sarfraz explained after the day’s play. “I just went out there with a positive intent, looking to put the bowlers off and keep the score moving along.”

Roston Chase, the offspinner, was the prime beneficiary of Pakistan’s belated attempt at acceleration, finishing with 4 for 103 while Jason Holder, the captain, claimed 3 for 71, including two wickets off consecutive deliveries after tea that ended any reasonable prospect for Pakistan getting to a total in excess of 400.

Chase ended Azhar Ali’s eight-hour vigil just after lunch in bowling the opening batsman for 127 before adding the wickets of Asad Shafiq and Misbah.

Painfully slow at the start of his innings, Misbah showed a greater degree of urgency through the afternoon, adding 51 and completing a 39th half-century in Test cricket. His intentions for the final session were obvious when he smashed Devendra Bishoo, the legspinner, back overhead for four and then hoisted Chase for six over long-on.

But the bowler had the last laugh with the next delivery as an attempted reverse-sweep by Misbah gave Shane Dowrich, the wicketkeeper, the opportunity to make amends for two earlier errors in the innings.

While 84 runs came in the middle session of the day, it still could not adequately compensate for their bewilderingly slow rate of scoring in the morning when both Azhar and Misbah seemed more intent on occupation of the crease than scoring runs.

Unbeaten on 85 overnight with the total on a promising 169 for 2, Azhar added 37 of the morning’s 58 runs in getting to his 14th Test century and second in consecutive matches. Yet it was not one of his more memorable efforts and by the time he fell, missing an attempted sweep off Chase, he had faced 334 balls and struck two sixes and eight fours.

Misbah had come to the crease after Younis, who is also bowing out of international cricket after this match, was trapped leg before by Holder for 18 inside the first hour of a bright, sultry morning. He should have departed without scoring but for another error behind the stumps by Dowrich.

Having put down Babar Azam off Bishoo the day before, the wicketkeeper was inexplicably wrong-footed and failed to hold on to a low chance to the exasperation of Holder, the suffering bowler.