Australia vs Pakistan 2019: Ricky Ponting 'excited' to see Babar Azam bat
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has cautioned the Australian think tank ahead of their two-Test series against a young Pakistan side featuring Babar Azam. Ponting singled out the touring team’s most prolific run-scorer, Babar Azam as their main threat.
Speaking to cricket.com.au, Ponting sounded quite vocal about the possibility of Azam scoring big runs against one of the best fast bowling attacks in the world in Test match cricket. According to him, Pakistan’s T20I skipper is a much better batsman than his current Test average shows. Ponting feared that Tim Paine’s side might see the best of Azam in the two matches to be played at the Gabba and Adelaide. In 21 Tests, Azam has scored 1235 runs at an average of 35.28, with one hundred and 11 fifties. Ponting stated:
"We haven't seen the best of him yet… Twenty-odd Tests for an average of 35 – he's better than that. He averages 54 in one-day cricket at a strike-rate of about 90.”
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In an honest conversation, Ponting revealed his liking towards the classy Babar Azam and how the world should be prepared to expect the unthinkable from the World’s best T20I batsmen. He said:
"He's a very, very classy player… He's a really exciting talent and probably the guy I'm looking forward to seeing the most this summer. I've seen the Aussies a lot and I've seen a lot of the Kiwis, but I'm really excited to see him. He could be anything."
Ponting referred to the tour game where Azam scored a majestic knock of 157 runs against Australia A at Perth. According to the Australian legend, Azam had nothing to lose and would gain a lot from his previous tour in 2016/17. Ponting described how Azam had answers to the plans put up against him, whether it was bowling short or bowled an over-pitched delivery.
"He looked like he was playing a different game… As soon as we over-pitched, he banged it through the covers or banged it down the ground. And when we dropped short, he got onto that pretty quickly as well."
Ponting suggested that keeping Babar Azam away from the new ball would help the batsman play freely and for that, the openers will have their task cut-out against the likes of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and James Pattinson. Ponting put faith in Azam’s abilities to adjust on the fast and bouncy pitches down under. He stated:
"If they can massage him and help him through a little bit, keep him away from the new ball a little bit here in Australia, then I think they'll get the best out of him… There is just a bit more bounce and pace here so it requires a wee bit of adjustment. But the more you practice and play here, the more you get used to it.”
In Pakistan’s tour of Australia in 2016, Azam played three matches and scored only 68 runs at a dismal average of 11.33, getting out to Josh Hazlewood four times. The first Test starts on November 21 at the Gabba, followed by the day-night encounter at Adelaide from November 29.
Tim Paine (captain & wicketkeeper), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner
Azhar Ali (captain), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan Snr, Iftikhar Ahmed, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Musa Khan, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah.