The ICC World Test Championships got underway last year and although Pakistan are languishing in fifth spot with 140 points, young Babar Azam has been sizzling touch. A total of 684 runs, average of 114 and strike-rate of 71 – all ooze just class from the blade of Babar Azam.
The Pakistan middle-order batsman ended the rain-curtailed first day’s play against England in the first Test at Manchester unbeaten on 69 off just 100 deliveries. On an opening day track on which all Pakistan batsmen struggled, Babar Azam looked a class apart after taking his time to settle in.
Babar Azam ended first session on a sedate 4 off 27 balls as he gave the first session to the English bowlers which included James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer. The 25-year-old started to open up after lunch, stroking 11 glorious boundaries as be scored his next 65 runs in just 73 balls.
The brilliance of his strokeplay drew lavish praise from former England captain Nasser Hussain, who felt that Babar Azam’s elevation has created a ‘Fab Five’ in world cricket which includes Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root apart from the Pakistan youngster.
“If this lad was Virat Kohli, everyone would be talking about it but because it is Babar Azam, no one is talking about it,” said former England captain Nasser Hussain while commentating for Sky Sports.
“He’s young, he’s elegant, he’s got all the swagger,” Nasser Hussain added.
Babar Azam’s last eight scores include 104, 97, 8, 102 not out, 60, 100 not out, 143 and now 69 not out.
“They keep going on about the ‘Fab Four (Kohli, Australia’s Steve Smith, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and England captain Joe Root) -- it’s the ‘Fab Five’ and Babar Azam is in that,” the former England skipper felt.
Pakistan opener Shan Masood had the best seat in the house on Wednesday (July 5), scoring an important 46 not out off 152 deliveries.
"I've always enjoyed batting with Babar Azam and there's no doubt that it's a good thing for Pakistan that we have a batsman in our side who ranks among the top batsmen in the world, in all three formats.
“Babar's quality is such that...there were a couple of incidents when the ball slowed down or did not come on to the bat, he had good reflexes and hands that he still punished the bowlers,” Shan Masood told the media after Day One of the first Test.
The Pakistan opener felt that Babar Azam’s counter-attack on the English bowlers put them on the backfoot and took pressure off Pakistan, who had lost a couple of early wickets after winning the toss and batting first.
"Once he got set, the run-flow increased, and once that happened the opposition got a bit disturbed. Runs are important and the run-rate, from today's perspective and the conditions on offer, we maintained it well, ran well between wickets.
“Babar always looks for the single and a left-right combination is also important. And Babar Azam is a quality player and when he's batting the opposition is always under pressure," Shan Masood said about Babar Azam.