Cricket: Slater gallops into the record books

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The Independent Online
A RECORD unbeaten double-century opening stand between Michael Slater and Greg Blewett put Australia on their way to a strong position at the end of the second day of the First Test against Pakistan at the Gabba.

Australia, replying to Pakistan's first innings of 367, reached 233 without loss at stumps, with Slater bringing up his 13th Test century, unbeaten on 134, and Blewett playing the supporting role on 77 not out.

Slater's characteristically stylish and dashing innings contained 21 fours and a six and came off 206 balls, while Blewett hit a six and seven boundaries. It was the pair's third 100-plus opening stand in four innings and bettered the previous Australian record against Pakistan of 176 set by Mark Taylor and Slater in Rawalpindi in 1994.

"With them having scored over 300 it was important for Greg and I to get off to a good start," said Slater. "We knew the conditions were good for batting but we had to get through the new ball first, so to score a hundred today was superb."

Slater said it was crucial to get on top of the world's fastest bowler Shoaib Akhtar and set the tone for the three-match series. "It was important to get out there and show through our body language that we were on top of that early pace, we knew he was going to throw everything at us," he said.

Faced with the run onslaught, Pakistan's bowlers, particularly Shoaib, lost their discipline, and Slater profited from two dropped chances before clinching his hundred. It was a demoralising two sessions in the field for the Pakistanis, who exasperated their captain Wasim Akram with their performance.

There was even no respite from the fading light as play continued for the final 20 minutes with the floodlights switched on under agreed playing conditions for the Test series.

Slater gleefully took advantage of the tiring Pakistan attack, even getting away with his second life on 99, having had his first on 78 when Azhar Mahmood at mid-off dropped a two-handed chance around his midriff when Slater drove uppishly at Akram. And he should have been out one run short of his hundred - for the seventh time in the 90s in Tests - when Mohammad Wasim twice fumbled a chance at second slip off Shoaib Akhtar. Instead Slater scampered for the single, and Shoaib slumped to the ground in despair.

"It was not the way I wanted to bring up my century, but I had a bit of good luck there and it was very satisfying to score another hundred," Slater said. He took 173 minutes and 150 deliveries for his hundred and passed 4,000 Test runs along the way.

Earlier, wicketkeeper Moin Khan smashed his 13th Test half-century, clubbing nine fours and carting Scott Muller for a six over long on in a swashbuckling knock of 61 off just 68 balls before being run out by a Ricky Ponting throw from the deep to end Pakistan's innings. Pakistan added 87 runs to their overnight score of 280 for 6.

Damien Fleming finished with 4 for 65 while Glenn McGrath and Muller took two wickets apiece.