In this day and age when everything, including time, moves so fast, someone like Azhar Ali is a rarity.
How can someone be so patient? How can someone have so much concentration for so long?
It is unbelievable that someone like Azhar Ali exists during times where every kid in Pakistan aspires to be a Shahid Afridi; where there are test batsmen like Virender Sehwag and David Warner; and where the influence of Twenty20 cricket has almost destroyed the art of good old traditional test match batting.
Azhar Ali took 319 deliveries to reach his second test century on the third day of the final Pakistan vs England test. And he faced a total of 442 deliveries for his test best 157.
He ran for 111 of those runs!
England's target of 324 would have been a lot less had Azhar had not played this knock. Sure. But then is it really that good a knock?
Is scoring at a strike rate of 35.5 really good for the team?
If you are looking to save a test match and play for a draw then it most definitely is. But when you are in control of the match and can actually dictate terms, does a strike rate of 35.5 make sense?
I can hear the majority of you say, yes it does!
But then I think that even if Azhar had scored at a strike rate of 50, which is still slow but seems reasonable for a test match innings, he would have had a double hundred to his name today and Pakistan would have set England an unreachable target of close to 400.
That is the difference that controlled aggression can make.
I am not saying that there is no merit in playing a long test innings, nor am I taking any credit away from Azhar Ali.
All that I am saying is that if one has been out there for 442 deliveries, then he is probably seeing the ball like a panda sized football and there is no reason why he can't show a bit more aggression.
Where Azhar Ali has shown everyone the importance of patience for a batsman, Shahid Afridi has shown all of us what a lack of patience does! Where Azhar's natural reaction is a forward defensive, Afridi's natural reaction is a hoike for 6!
During Azhar's gritty knock, Farees (follow him on twitter) wondered whether Afridi had faced that many balls during an entire year of ODI cricket.
Here are some numbers to ponder about...
442 the number of deliveries Azhar Ali faced over two days of test cricket for his 157.
363 the number of deliveries Shahid Afridi faced in 22 ODIs during the year 2011.
3 the number of sixes Azhar Ali has hit in 39 test innings to date.
11 the number of sixes Shahid Afridi hit in his first ever international innings.
3920 the number of deliveries Azhar Ali has faced in his short test career to date. That is 65% of the deliveries (6039) Shahid Afridi has faced in 310 ODI innings.
384 the number of runs Shahid Afridi would have scored if he faced 442 deliveries in a test innings.
100 the number of deliveries Azhar Ali averages per test innings.
114 the strike rate Shahid Afridi scores at in ODIs.
38.5 the strike rate at which Azhar Ali has scored during his test career. Afridi scored his test runs at a strike rate that was 2.25 times faster.
1770 the number of runs Shahid Afridi has scored through sixes in ODI cricket. That's more than the 1511 runs Azhar Ali has scored in total in 39 test innings.
These numbers are just for fun really. The more pertinent question is that does it really help Pakistan if Azhar Ali continues to score at a strike rate of 35?
Maybe if Pakistan had five other stroke makers in the top six then having one Azhar Ali would not be too much of a problem. But right now, Pakistan have at least three batsmen that score at around 30 runs per 100 balls.
I'm just waiting to see when these batsmen become more confident about their game and bring in controlled aggression. Occupying the crease is good, but we would really like to see some runs as well!