Pakistan openers Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali put together a first-wicket stand of 121 off 28 overs in their 2-day game against Leicestershire to lay down their claims for a Test berth at Lord’s.
Zaman said he enjoyed getting back to red ball cricket, but it was his white ball instincts that came to the fore as his innings progressed.
‘I was trying to be aggressive in the start also but they were bowling very well and the wicket was not that much easy to score easily, so I was waiting for the ball to come onto the bat. There are a lot of opportunities now [in the Pakistan team] and we have some brilliant middle-order batsmen… so hopefully when we get them we will grab them with both hands,’ Zaman told Cricinfo, adding that if he has the opportunity to make his Test debut at Lord’s in the coming week it will be a very happy moment for him personally.
Zaman has only 37 first-class matches to his credit but he has the ability to put meaningful scores on the board, although it will be a big ask to dislodge either of the incumbents, Ali or Imam-ul-Haq, the latter having scored an undefeated 74 in the second innings of his Test debut to usher his side through to victory against Ireland.
Ali is already a seasoned Test campaigner, with a triple century to his credit during the day/night Test against the West Indies in 2016, as well as over 5 000 Test runs under his belt. Ali would have been motivated to get among the runs in this match, however, as it came off the back of a disappointing performance in the Test against Ireland, where he scored just four and two. The 33-year-old wouldn’t want to miss out on the chance to return to Lord’s, as it was the venue where he made his Test debut back in 2010, against Australia. In the same match, ex-Aussie captain Steve Smith made his Test debut as a leg-spinner (batting at eight and nine).
Zaman was first to go against Leicestershire after a quick-fire 71 off 98 balls (14 fours), while Ali scored a more calculated 73 off 127 balls (13 fours).
Coming in at number four was the 27-year-old Usman Salahuddin, who weighed in with a measured 69 off 154 balls with just five fours, as he too threw his hat in the circle for a Test debut. Usman has scored 20 first-class centuries in his 99 matches to date and he bats at an average of 46.53, a factor which could give him the edge when it comes to snapping up any available spots in the Pakistan middle-order.
Playing against a somewhat lame Leicestershire attack, the match is being viewed by the Pakistan management as a chance for squad players to get some game time, rather than offering an opportunity to fight for places at Lord’s ― although the selectors will naturally take note of the players’ performances. What would have caught their eye was the manner in which Zaman patiently played himself in before unleashing the full array of his attacking strokes, memorably carting the experienced Leicestershire seamer Richard Jones all over the show. From the fifth ball of the 22nd over of the day, Zaman’s run feast ran as follows: 4 – 1 – 4 – 0- 4 -4 -1 – 0 -0 – 1 – 4- 0 – 4 – 4.
However, his luck ran dry when he holed out to midwicket with a shot more accustomed to white-ball cricket. That attacking instinct might serve against him when the selectors ink in their 11 for Lord’s but, nonetheless, he has given them something to think about and himself an innings to relish.
Pakistan declared overnight with their score on 321/9, with four Leicestershire bowlers each taking two wickets. South African-born left-arm opener Dieter Klein proved the most economical with the ball, finishing with figures of 18-3-44-2, including the wickets of top-scorer Ali and number three bat Sami Aslam (eight off 34 balls), both bowled.
Pakistan plays England at Lord’s in London from Thursday 24 to Monday 28 May 2018.
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