Pakistan vs Sri Lanka 2019: Babar Azam’s stunning century reminds us again of his extraordinary skills
We can now add Babar Azam to the list too.
Azam is certainly a special player. He is only 24 years of age, but has already accrued 11 centuries from 71 innings. He averages a superb 54.55 in his ODI career so far.
One of the secrets to Azam’s success is his all-round game. He is strong from everywhere in the crease. Off the front foot, he is well-known for his glorious cover-drives. Off the back foot, Azam can feather a late cut past the prowling point fielder, or pull a short ball for four, with equal ease.
The Pakistani displayed all these skills in Monday’s second ODI versus Sri Lanka. The match (played at Karachi) saw Pakistan defeat the tourists by 67 runs, thanks to Azam’s textbook 115.
Pakistan batted first and put on 73 runs for the first wicket before Imam-ul-Haq was dismissed. That brought Azam to the crease; it was his first ODI innings since the World Cup 2019.
If the right-hander was nervous, he did not show it.
He tackled the situation with gusto and was involved in a 112-run partnership for the third wicket with Haris Sohail. Sohail realised that Azam was in fine touch and gave the latter the majority of the strike. Azam relished the added responsibility and batted with maturity.
His first 50 runs consisted mostly of singles and were scored in a languid manner. But soon after he reached the landmark, the shackles were broken.
The release came courtesy of a no-ball; the Sri Lankans were penalized for having one fielder too many in the inner circle. Azam licked his lips, swung, and connected the ball sweetly, sending it soaring into the stands.
The batsman piled further misery on Sri Lanka when he smashed the last ball of the same over (the 34th) for another six.
The sequence proved that Azam can change the tempo of the match at the flick of a switch.
The Azam-Sohail partnership grew to ominous proportions before the latter was eventually run-out. In Sohail’s absence, Azam moved closer to the century mark.
After 43 overs he was on 98 runs, and the crowd had built up to a crescendo. They were eagerly waiting for the moment their hero would reach a ton.
It came soon enough, when Azam steered the ball past the outstretched hands of point. The crowd immediately erupted with joy and applauded his feat.
Azam’s celebration was much like his batting. He was poker-faced when he lifted his bat, and then only briefly acknowledged the crowd. The words 'cool, calm and collected' would do apt justice to his celebration.
Azam’s century was nearly flawless, as he did not offer a single chance during his stay at the crease. Although he was dismissed soon after, for 115, the damage was already done and Pakistan romped to a convincing win.
Azam's fans would be hoping there are many more centuries to come from the talented Pakistani.