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Cricket - Sohail, Azam centuries put Pakistan in commanding position

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(Reuters) – Pakistan’s top-order batsmen Haris Sohail and Babar Azam struck contrasting centuries as they took control of the second test against New Zealand on day two in Dubai on Sunday.

Resuming on their overnight total of 207-4, Pakistan ground down the Kiwi attack, with Sohail scoring 147 and Azam 127 not out before they declared their first innings on 418-5.

New Zealand were 24 for no loss after nine overs at the close of play, with opening batsmen Jeet Raval (17) and Tom Latham (5) at the crease.

The visitors are still 394 runs behind Pakistan but will fancy their chances of amassing a decent score on a Dubai International Cricket Stadium pitch that has progressively improved for batting.

Sohail, who had played patiently to reach 81 on Saturday, continued his innings in a similar manner to bring up only his second test century in 309 balls.

The left-hander frustrated the Kiwi bowlers with his tight defence, combining with the more aggressive Azam to stitch together a 186-run stand for the fifth wicket.

Sohail fell shortly after the tea break, caught by wicketkeeper BJ Watling while chasing a delivery from pace bowler Trent Boult, to leave Pakistan at 360-5.

Azam, who was on 99, reached his maiden test ton with a flick off his pads in the same over.

The highly-rated 24-year-old looked set to push on in the company of skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (30 not out) before Pakistan declared their innings abruptly.

Ahmed then deployed five bowlers in nine overs in a bid to knock off a few Kiwi wickets, but bad light resulted in a premature end to the day.

New Zealand won the opening test in Abu Dhabi by four runs to take a 1-0 lead in the series. The teams will return to the same venue for the final match from Dec. 3-7.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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