Imam-ul-Haq grew up with dreams of emulating his famous uncle, Pakistan’s powerful Test batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq (Inzy to cricket-lovers the world over), who is now Pakistan’s chief selector. The 22-year-old left-handed batsman’s Test aspirations did not take into account the possibility of making his bow against Ireland in their own Test debut.
Imam scored 100 on his ODI debut opening the batting against Sri Lanka in 2017, leading his side to a seven-wicket win with plenty of overs to spare. He is likely to take his spot in the Pakistan top three for this Test following two half-centuries (61 vs Kent, 59* vs Northamptonshire) in the tour warm-up matches.
‘It’s a very proud feeling,’ Imam told Cricinfo. ‘Everybody knows that Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan have just retired and our young guys have to do a lot of work. It’s always good to come and prove a point, and we’re looking forward to this series. I have been scoring runs in the two four-day matches and that gives me confidence. I’m very hopeful that I’ll do well in this series.
‘Obviously it will be my first Test match, my first pressure match. I will be very nervous, I won’t lie – that’s what we play for, that’s my dream since I grew up, to play Test cricket for your country. I didn’t think I would play my first Test match in Ireland, so it’s different but as a sportsman, you have to be ready for everything.’
While the smart money might rest on a solid Pakistan victory, students of the game will be quick to point to Ireland’s ability to cause upsets on the international stage, in particular, their shock win over Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup.
‘I remember that match, it was a very big day for Ireland cricket and a very sad day for Pakistan. But in sport, these things happen. They are playing their first Test match, so we want to give them good luck, it’s very good for Irish cricket. We hope they will play good and be a very good side in future,’ said Imam.
Mickey Arthur’s Pakistan team were top of the Test rankings in 2016, but they are currently languishing in seventh spot – a fact which Irish eyes might view with a sense of optimism.
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