Azhar's fifty helps Pakistan make steady progress against England

London (AFP) –


Azhar Ali made exactly 50 as Pakistan's batsmen consolidated the good work of their bowlers on the second morning of the first Test at Lord's on Friday.

At lunch, Pakistan were 136 for three in reply to England's meagre first innings 184 -- a deficit of 48 runs.

Asad Shafiq was 28 not out and Babar Azam eight not out after the tourists lost just two wickets in bowler-friendly conditions after resuming on 50 for one.

On Thursday, Pakistan pacemen Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali had taken took four wickets apiece as they maintained a disciplined line and length.

It looked as if Pakistan, rather than their opponents, were more familiar in classic early-season English conditions that England captain Joe Root would have expected to favour his side.

But Pakistan, whose players are effectively banned from the Indian Premier League, had enjoyed arguably the better preparation for this two-match series than some members of the England team.

While the likes of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler were appearing in the lucrative Twenty20 franchise tournament, Pakistan were in England playing a trio of warm-up games.

And just prior to this match they played another Test in similarly overcast conditions, beating debutants Ireland by five wickets in Dublin.

Pakistan resumed with Azhar 18 not out and Haris Sohail 21 not out.

The second-wicket duo continued to be watchful in defence and leave the ball when appropriate.

But they did take advantage of loose and over-pitched deliveries.

Azhar drilled Stuart Broad through the covers and forced Ben Stokes off the back foot through point for another well-struck four.

Left-hander Haris, meanwhile, drove England spearhead James Anderson down the ground.

But Mark Wood eventually ended a partnership worth 75 runs.

Having tried to 'rough up' both batsmen from around thw wicket, the fast bowler slipped in a fuller-length delivery that Haris (39), perhaps deceived into expecting another short ball, edged to wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow.

The experienced Azhar completed a 133-ball fifty but had failed to add to his score when he was lbw to Anderson, England's all-time leading Test wicket-taker, who had been switched to the Nursery End by Root.

Pakistan ended the session with a flourish as Asad hoisted debutant off-spinner Dominic Bess for a six over midwicket.