Monday, December 23, 2019

Babar, Abid, Naseem Rising for Pakistan

Quite a start to the day for Pakistan cricket fans.

A first test victory under Azhar Ali, a 5 wicket haul for teen pace sensation Naseem Shah, and a test series win that saw the rise of Babar Azam in test cricket, the legendary test debut of Abid Ali, many shattered records, and a jump to number 3 in the World Test Championship!

Yes, number 3 ...

Here is a look at the feats of Naseem, Babar, and Abid in the just concluded Test series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka

The Arrival of NASEEM SHAH
Everyone was excited to see a new teen pace sensation coming out of Pakistan when he was selected in the test squad to face Australia.

A video of his 8 over spell in a side match in Australia circulated on social media with enthusiasm not seen since Mohammed Aamer's breakthrough series in 2010.

On his test debut in the first test against Australia, he bowled with pace and snared the prized wicket of David Warner. But he was left out of the second test against Australia and everyone thought he was going to be mismanaged like so many others in Pakistan.

Then there was news of him joining the U19 team for the U19 World Cup. Moving backwards? Not surprising given Pakistan.

Sanity prevailed however and he was part of the test squad to face Sri Lanka.

Two wickets in the only innings of the first test and wicket-less in the first innings of the second test resulted in some saying he was over rated.

But like most Pakistanis, who like to surprise you when you are least expecting it, Naseem Shah showed the world why he was so highly rated by the Pakistan management.

A haul of 5-31 with the last 3 wickets coming in the space of 11 deliveries and Naseem Shah had arrived!

He finished the test in no time this morning and made fans reminisce the times when Wasim and Waqar used to mop up tails within minutes.

Naseem became only the second 16 year old in Test Cricket history to pick up a 5 wicket haul in an innings. He is also the second youngest ever to do so!

Creating records already!

The Rise of BABAR AZAM
For the past three years, he has dominated limited overs cricket and has shown that he is one of the best ODI and T20 batsmen in the world at the moment. While he averaged above 50 in both white ball formats during this time, his test average languished in the mid-30s.

The start of this season however, his fourth in test cricket, Babar made it a point to translate his ODI and T20 success to the Test format.

He started the season with a 104 against Australia at Brisbane and with the end of the Test series against Sri Lanka he has scored 3 test centuries in 4 tests. In the one test that he missed out on, he scored 97.

With scores of 1, 104, 97, 8, 102*, 60, and 100*, in 7 tests innings this season, Babar has cemented his position as Pakistan's premier test batsman.

In the two year period starting January 2018, Babar has the best test average in the world among all batsmen who have scored at least 1,000 test runs.

He has a better average than Smith, Kohli, Williamson, and Root during this time.

In all international cricket formats in 2019, Babar Azam is right up there with the very best in the business. He has the third highest runs tally, third best average, third most 100s, and third most 50s in all formats this year.

Babar is the number 1 ranked batsman in T20Is, number 3 in ODIs, and number 6 in Tests. He is the only batsman in the world who is among the top 6 in each format currently! (Kohli is number 1 in tests and ODIs and number 10 in T20s).

Babar's time is now and he is set to dominate all formats of the game for many years to come.

The Legendary Debut of ABID ALI
Abid Ali has been a heavy scorer in domestic cricket for the past many years, and he finally got an opportunity to represent Pakistan this year.

He began his international career with a bang scoring a century on ODI debut in the UAE against Australia earlier this year.

Abid followed that up with a century on Test debut against Sri Lanka becoming the first batsman in the 142-years of cricket history to score a 100 on ODI and Test Debut.

I say we hand him a T20 debut too asap!

Abid has also become the first Pakistan batsman to score a 100 in each of his first two Tests.

He has really been on a roll.

With scores of 109*, 38, and 174, Abid Ali has scored 321 runs in his first three test innings, which is the third highest number of runs scored by batsmen in their first three test innings (behind Tip Foster's 355 and Lawrence Rowe's 336).

It is not without reason that Abid Ali is referred to as "Legend" in the dressing room.

Records Broken by PAKISTAN BATSMEN
Abid Ali, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, and Babar Azam all scored centuries in the second innings of the second test against Sri Lanka. This was only the second instance of a team's top 4 batsmen scoring centuries in the same innings; and the first ever instance of it happening in the second innings.

Shan Masood, brought up his second test century, cementing his position as Pakistan's first choice opener in Tests. He put on a 278 run opening partnership with Abid Ali, which made its entry in multiple places in the record books.

It was the highest opening partnership in tests against Sri Lanka, breaking a 15 year old record set by the legendary duo of Hayden and Langer.

It was the second highest opening partnership in tests for Pakistan ever, missing the record by a mere 20 runs.

It was the third highest opening partnership in the third innings of a Test.

ICC World Test Championship
This series win by Pakistan has catapulted them to number 3 in the WTC table, and now they join India and Australia as the only teams with a series win in the WTC.

Pakistan rank ahead of Sri Lanka because of more series wins (SW). RPWR stands for Runs per Wicket Ratio (Runs scored per wicket lost minus run given per wicket taken). If teams are on equal points then the team with more series wins ranks higher; and if still equal then the team with a better RPWR ranks higher.

Now that Pakistan has opened its account in the WTC and new Tests stars have emerged at home, there is much to look forward to in 2020 and beyond.

May this be the start for these exciting players and may they reach greater heights in the years to come.

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