Recalled opener Imamul Haq said his hundred against Australia was “special” as Pakistan finished the opening day of the first Test against Australia on a commanding 245-1 in Rawalpindi on Friday.
The 26-year-old left-hander marked the first Test by Australia in Pakistan for 24 years with 132 not out, leaving the tourists frustrated on a dry and flat Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium pitch.
“A hundred against Australia is special and different from other teams,” said Haq, playing his first Test since December 2019.
“I was not getting chances in Tests, but I was following the process — and it's nice to take challenges like this one, against a formidable attack of Australia.”
Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998 for security reasons, and on Friday, at least 56 people were killed and nearly 200 wounded in a suicide bomb attack at a Shia mosque in Peshawar.
Australian interim head coach Andrew McDonald sent condolences from the team, adding: “We will be guided by our security team, but we're in really, really good hands.”
At the close on Friday, veteran batsman Azhar Ali was unbeaten on 64, having added 140 for the unbroken second wicket after Pakistan won a crucial toss and opted to bat.
Haq put on a confident 105-run stand for the opening wicket with Abdullah Shafique as Australia used eight bowlers, but only spinner Nathan Lyon (1-87) managed a scalp in 31 tireless overs.
Shafique miscued a lofted shot off Lyon in the penultimate over before lunch for 44.
He was shaping well after getting a life on 21 when Travis Head dropped a sharp chance at leg slip off Lyon, who extracted spin from the outset.
Shafique hit three boundaries and a six during his enterprising knock.
That brought Azhar to the crease, and the Pakistanis dominated the Australian attack — forcing skipper Pat Cummins to use part-time spinners Head, Steven Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, but to no effect.
Haq drove pacer Mitchell Starc to the cover boundary to complete his century in 277 minutes.
He has batted for 379 minutes, hitting 15 boundaries and two sixes, also improving on his previous best of 76 made against the same opponents in Dubai in October 2018.
When Haq reached the milestone, the crowd of 12,000 stood as one to applaud.
Azhar was also in sublime form, playing spin and pace with confidence in his 235-minute knock, spiced with four boundaries and a six.
Australia will rue their questionable selection as they went into the Test with three pacers, a fast bowling allrounder and a lone spinner in Lyon.
In contrast, Pakistan chose two spinners, a part-time slow bowler and two frontline quicks.
Coach McDonald refused to be judged after just one day. “It was obviously a tough day for bowlers — even for spinners,” he said.
"So the game didn't run away from us on day one in terms of selection."
Before the start of the match, Pakistan Cricket Board Chief Executive Officer Faisal Hasnain said the start of the first Test is a historic moment in Pakistan's cricket history, adding that it sends a powerful message to the rest of the world.
“The pitch looks nice so we'll try to put runs on the board,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam said, predicting spinners would play a key role in the first match of the three-Test series.
Australia players wore black armbands in memory of former wicketkeeper Rod Marsh who died aged 74 on Friday.
A sell-out crowd of 16,000 is expected.
The second Test is in Karachi (March 12-16) and the third in Lahore (March 21-25).
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah.
Australia: Pat Cummins (captain), Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.
Umpires: Aleem Dar and Ahsan Raza
Additional input from Reuters.