Fourteen years ago Azhar Ali came on as a substitute fielder to see Inzamam-ul-Haq score an epic triple hundred in Lahore and wished he could emulate the legendary Pakistan batsman in future.
On Friday Ali notched his own with an unbeaten 302 against West Indies in the second ever day-night Test in Dubai to join a select league of batsmen.
But what distinguishes the 31-year-old from the rest of the triple centurions is that he became the first batsman in day-night Test cricket to achieve the landmark.
“I still remember I was sent to the ground as a substitute fielder on the day when Inzamam scored that epic triple century,” said Ali of Inzamam’s 329 against New Zealand in Lahore in May 2002.
“Now I have my own and it’s a great achievement for which I am proud and can’t explain my feelings. It is something which I will remember my whole life,” said Ali whose innings guided Pakistan to an imperious 579-3 declared.
His was the fourth triple hundred by a Pakistani batsman.
Apart from him and Inzamam, late Hanif Mohammad knocked 337 against West Indies at Bridgetown in 1958 and Younis Khan made 313 against Sri Lanka in Karachi in 2009.
Ali said he had also watched Younis’s triple and missed the senior batsman who had to withdraw from Dubai Test as he was still recovering from dengue fever.
“Of course, I missed Younis in this match,” said Ali. “He has always been my role model and I was sitting on his seat in the dressing room so I had to keep the honour of that seat as well.
“I am proud that I have matched him because whenever he scores a hundred he takes it to double or big scores,” said Ali of Younis who is Pakistan’s highest Test run-getter with 9456 in 108 matches.
Since his arrival on the international scene, Ali has impressed with his resolute batting and is likely to anchor Pakistan’s batting once Younis and skipper Misbah-ul-Haq leave the stage.
He has already replaced Misbah as captain of the one-day team.
Ali dedicated his triple hundred to his parents and also to the people of his nation.
“First, I want to dedicate my achievement to my parents who have always guided me in my life and next to the people of my country who must keep their minds clear and not let them affect when we don’t do well.”
Ali believed the pink ball — used in the day-night Test instead of the traditional red — did not cause any difficulties.
“The pink ball did not cause any problems, we sighted it well and that’s why scored runs so I am okay with it,” said Ali.
Manufacturers of the pink ball modified its seam from green and white after players had complained sighting problems in the first-ever day-night Test between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide last year.