2015 Test Century Watch #34 – Azhar Ali

Azhar Ali

Azhar Ali – 117 v Sri Lanka at Colombo PSS

We are getting into the realms of repetition now. This is Azhar Ali’s second test century of the year, and he is the second man to make 117. Steve Smith has both of these attributes, if that’s the right word, already in 2015. The great shame with that means I can’t tell the story of the first 117 again, scored by WW Read in 1884, from the highly regular batting position of number 10. Read about here on the Steve Smith 117 on HDWLIA. This is the 70th score of 117 in test matches.

This was Azhar Ali’s ninth test hundred in his 43rd test. It is his fifth highest (his highest was made earlier this year against Bangladesh), his second century in Colombo (but at two different venues -made 157 at the SSC) and his fifth against Sri Lanka overall. This was also his third test century to last over 500 minutes. Azhar gets in for a long time, not a good time.

Have you ever seen a 117, Dmitri? No, I haven’t in test matches. The 117s in England since I’ve been watching tests in the flesh have come outside London. The last three have come at Trent Bridge – Marlon Samuels in 2012, Rahul Dravid in 2011 and Stephen Fleming in 2004 – with the last at Lord’s being in 1998 (Jonty Rhodes) and at The Oval you have to go back to Norm O’Neill in 1961. The last Englishman in England to make 117 was Marcus Trescothick against Pakistan in 2001 at Old Trafford.

This was the 30th hundred made at the P Sara Stadium, with Stephen Fleming leading the way with 274* in 2003. Fawad Alam has the highest score by a Pakistani at PSS, with 168 in 2009. Saeed Anwar (136 in 1994) and Rameez Raja (122 in 1986) are ahead of Azhar for Pakistan at the PSS.  Rameez Raja’s was the first test century at the ground.

So, with the great WW Read story already told (a little) we have to look for the second score of 117 to fill the post. Thankfully we have another old tale to tell as the second 117 was scored at the SCG in 1894. Now this is a reasonably famous test match which England won comfortably. By 10 runs. Nothing much happened, except England won by runs, but didn’t bat first! Oh yes, it’s the 19th century version of Headingley 1981!

Australia batted first and made the princely sum of 586. It takes some to lose a test from that position (Adelaide 2006 anyone). Just like Adelaide 2006, we had a double centurion (Syd Gregory 201) and a 150+ (George Giffen 161). It must be stated, at this point, that this was a timeless test, so the draw wasn’t an option.

England made 325 in response, with the top score being 75 by Albert Ward, and it was Albert who came out in the second innings and made the second ever 117 after the follow-on was enforced. England made 473, but Ward’s contribution was double that of the best of his colleagues – Jack Brown made 53 – but a load of 40s and 30s increased the total to set Australia 177 to win. They were bowled out for 166 with Bobby Peel taking a six-for. It was an amazing turnaround. Take it away Wisden:

This was probably the most sensational match ever played either in Australia or in England. Going in first, the Australians made a poor start, losing three wickets – all bowled down by Richardson – for 21 runs. Iredale and Giffen, however, put on 171 for the fourth wicket, and Giffen and Gregory 139 for the fifth. Giffen’s splendidly played 161 lasted a little over four hours and a quarter.

At the close of the first day the score stood at 346 for five wickets, and in the end the total reached 586, Gregory and Blackham scoring 154 together for the ninth wicket. In recognition of his wonderful innings of 201 a collection was made for Gregory, the sum subscribed on the ground amounting to a hundred and three pounds.

In face of a score of 586 the Englishmen had a dismal prospect, but they set to work with the utmost resolution and kept the Australians in the field from Saturday afternoon till the following Wednesday. Still, though they ran up totals of 325 and 437 – Albert Ward taking the chief honours in each innings – they only set Australia 177 to get.

At the close of the fifth day 113 had been scored for two wickets, and the match looked all over. Drenching rain in the night, however, followed by bright sunshine, completely altered the condition of the ground, and Peel – well backed up by Briggs – proved so irresistible that the Englishmen gained an astonishing victory by 10 runs.

That’s what’s great about this game. I can transport a 500 minute plus 117 by a Pakistani in Sri Lanka and take it to Sydney in 1894. The first test match to ever go into a 6th day and a Lancastrian called Albert Ward. It’s great.

Azhar Ali’s century came up in 266 balls and contained 5 x 4.

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