Pakistan’s middle order batsman, coming at number 4 like Javed Miandad, was always lauded as world class batsmen for all formats of the game, but the kind of innings he played at the ongoing Old Trafford versus England confirmed beyond any shadow of doubt that today he is among the glorious galleries of cherished batsman of the world.
His was a classic knock at the Manchester ground, for coming at two down for 42, he had a classic 94-run partnership with opener Shan Masood, hooking and pulling, driving and cutting to all four sides of the wicket, did a loud of proud to Pakistan and to the entire cricketing world. Captain Azhar Ali, struggling for form for almost a year now , or perhaps more, failed again, fending a rising deliveries to offer a sharp catch to slip cordon and shamefully for naught.
He must apply now, rediscover himself for he had some glorious innings to his name, but batting in Dubai where most of the home series have been played till now, is vastly different from the batting in England. The kind of innings Shan Masood played as opener in company with Abid Ali, is indeed laudable. Wickets tumbled at the other end, including Abid Ali’s at 36 and then Azhar Ali, both edging waist high deliveries from England bowling super stars, James Anderson, and Stuart Broad to fielders awaiting for chances in the slips, but Shan Masood played a heroic innings, full of concentration, application and patience which again was a happy augury for an experienced side like Pakistan, trying to produce new heroes like Miandad, Zaheer Abbas, Asif Iqbal, Majid khan, Yunus Khan and Misbahul Haq. Shan Masood’s century of 251 balls with 13 fours, will long be remembered. It was a moment of pride not for himself, but for the game ofo cricket also.
Till after an hour of post –lunch period on the second day of the First of the three-Tests in England, Pakistan, because of Shan’s tremendous knock, had managed 244 for 5. Asad Shafiq fell leg before, while wicket keeper Rizwan, although tried to restore semblance of prestige to the side total, fell, but spinner Shadab once again rose to categories himself among noted all-rounder.
He has registered many a good knocks before also. Shan’s remarkable 100 indeed was a fighting knock, but Babar Azam’s innings of 106 balls and 11 fours was a golden chapter in Pakistan cricket history. Many a gorgeous knocks had been played by Pakistani great like Hanif Mohammad, Mushtaq Mohammad, Wasim Akram, and triple centuries by Inzimam, Yunus Khan, Qasim Omar, would continue to glitter in record books, but Babar’s heroics of salvaging the side from a possible collapse, ended rather unfortunately.
Till stumps on the first day, interrupted by rains more than once, he was unbeaten at 69, but bad luck he fell to a rising deliveries from Anderson on the last ball of the very first over the second day. Him and Abid Ali both just could not judge properly the move and bounce in the wicket, which obviously had the day’s repeated showers. But Babar Azam is Babr Azam. Both him and Shan Masood played for their team and while doing so decorated themselves too with elevation and honour, to be remembered for long. A simple analysis would convince critics that English conditions, where overcast skies, rainy spells, and movement and bounce in the wicket are a permanent feature.
Both adjusted themselves gloriously to the changed circumstances, facing the fairly English attack of Anderson-Broad-Woakes, and Archer with enormous confidence. Hopefully Pakistani quickies like Shaheen Shah Afridi, and others, plus spinners Yasir Shah and Shadab, would exploit the expected deterioration in wicket to restrain rivals from taking first innings. Hope therefore is automatically built for an exciting contest at Old Trafford.