World Cup 2019: Babar Azam graduates to the elite club of batsmen with a crucial knock
When one can hit the likes of Mitchell Starc, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah and Kagiso Rabada on the up, they are undoubtedly labeled to have all the talent in the world, but one thing Babar Azam was missing was the conversion of fifties to hundreds.
That has all changed now after he scored an essential hundred against New Zealand which managed to keep Pakistan's semifinal hopes alive in this year's World Cup 2019.
Set a target of 238 to chase on a tricky pitch, Babar was on his merry way with a few spanking drives through the covers, something we have been accustomed to in his last few innings. The difference here though was that he did not throw away his wicket even when Mitchell Santner was in the middle of a brilliant spell of bowling.
Santner was turning the ball sharply away from Babar and after surviving a knick to the keeper, Babar buckled down and made sure to see off a vicious spell from the left-arm spinner.
Babar was building a solid partnership with Hafeez, but after the 'professor' yet again fell to a part-timer, on this occasion Kane Williamson, Babar took the onus on himself to play till the end, something we have not seen from him in the recent past.
It was a change in mindset more than anything else from Babar Azam and the determination to see his side through on a tough pitch. If Babar had lost his wicket after Hafeez's dismissal, it would have almost been curtains for Pakistan, but he stayed put and received precious support from Haris Sohail.
Haris was struggling early on in his innings which shed light on the importance of a settled batsman, but Babar managed to guide him through the initial tough phase as the pair started to build a significant partnership.
The pair survived Santner's spell and started to milk the likes of Williamson and Neesham for singles to ensure Pakistan inch closer to the target. New Zealand needed wickets but Babar was having none of that, he was solid in defence and played some glorious shots when the ball was in his zone.
Haris was not too far behind, once he settled in he took the pressure off Babar with some sixes and fours, which allowed Pakistan to keep the run rate in check and avoid any unnecessary pressure in the death overs.
Babar and Haris put on a staggering 126-run partnership which ensured a clinical and successful run chase despite the odd hiccup. Babar scored 101 off 127 balls and it might not have been the prettiest but it was indeed the most important century of his career thus far. Haris Sohail's 68 off 76 was equally significant, as he made it easier for Babar to play his natural game and relieved the pressure with five fours and two crunching sixes.
Pakistan are back into the tournament and so far their campaign has matched that of Imran Khan's 'cornered tigers' who went on to lift the trophy in 1992. Although they are still not there yet, this win will give the team and the entire nation belief that they can pull off what would be a miraculous turnaround.
Babar Azam has proved today that he is as good as the other 'No 3s' going around in the world currently, he always had the ability but today he had the concentration and determination to play the long innings and see his side through.
He will be the key for Pakistan going into the business end of the tournament and one need not be surprised if he continues to pile on the runs considering his rich vein of form. He already has a few fifties in the tournament, but this hundred will do his confidence a world of good and we just might see the best of Babar Azam in the remaining matches.
Also read – Man of the match world cup 2019