Imam grabs golden opportunity with both hands as Aussies toil on Pakistani soil
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Imam-ul-Haq and Azhar Ali take full advantage of a placid pitch at Pindi Stadium as Pakistan capped day-1 at 245 for the loss of just 1 wicket against Australia in the first Test of three-match series at Pindi Cricket Stadium.
Opener Imam grabbed the golden opportunity with both hands and scored a fantastic unbeaten 132 against a clueless Australia while Azhar was unbeaten for his 64.
Earlier, skipper Babar Azam won the toss and opted to bat first. His decision paid off as Pakistani openers Abdullah Shafique and Imam were involved in a 105 runs opening stand.
Abdullah could have scored big had he not thrown away his wicket. Trying to complete his half-century, Abdullah came out of the crease and tried to hit an out of the park six to Nathan Lyon but the ball went high in the air and skipper Cummins took a decent catch.
After that, it was all one-way traffic, as Azhar, who was not enjoying the best of forms, joined Imam and from the very first delivery, Azhar was looking comfortable. Both Imam and Azhar managed to play Aussie bowlers with utmost ease and comfort. Although Pakistani batsmen failed to score quickly and the run rate at the end of the day remained less than 3, even then credit must be given first to Abdullah and Imam and then Azhar to show determination and grit to brave the Australian attack led by Cummins, Starc, Hazelwood, Lyon and Green while Labuschagne, Smith and Head also tried their luck, but to no avail.
Imam was particularly looked very determined and looked like a man on a mission to prove his critics wrong. It is worth mentioning here that last year chief selector Muhammad Wasim had dubbed Imam as non-Test material. But Wasim had to eat his own words and had to provide Imam with an opportunity to get picked first in the 16-member squad and then in the playing XI.
Imam played with a lot of confidence and never looked in any sort of trouble as he played all the Australian bowlers with utmost ease and comfort. Imam took almost 30 odd deliveries to score 4 runs, but once he settled down, he started to hit boundaries and also hit two massive sixes. His 132 included 15 boundaries and two sixes and he was involved in two hundred runs partnerships with Abdullah and Azhar. He and Azhar are still on the crease after adding 140 runs to Pakistan’s total.
Azhar also enjoyed a very nice day in the batting as he looked comfortable after a very long time. Azhar showed glimpses of his past performances and his innings was a treat to watch. Starc, Cummins and Hazelwood tried their level best to shake Azhar but Azhar stood firm and played some lovely strokes in his 64 runs innings. His innings included 4 fours and a six.
The day one of the Test completely belonged to Pakistan but many questions also arise. As Babar was fully aware of the pitch and if Pakistan team management had decided to keep Pindi pitch as a batting paradise then why did they include an extra batter in the shape of Iftikhar Ahmed. The logic given by a few circles is that Australia had too many left-handers in their playing XI and Iftikhar could be handy with the ball as well. But team management, it seems completely forget that Pakistan team only had one specialist bowler in the shape of Shaheen Shah Afridi. Naseem had hardly played a handful of Test matches while the same apply to Sajid Khan and Nauman.
Even if Pakistan managed to post a score in the region of 400 plus, they must remember they also had to take 20 Australian wickets as well and that too with only 4 bowlers and out of them 3 are almost newcomers.
Now everybody might forget that Imam was never a first choice opener and it was Shan Masood, who should have given nod ahead of Imam. But now Imam had scored a ton, many will keep quiet. Shan had enjoyed a wonderful domestic season and he had a memorable PSL-7 as well. Rather than going with Iftikhar, the PCB should have included a proper 5th bowler, whether a spinner or pacer like Waseem Junior.
On the other hand, Aussies too committed the same blunder as instead of going with 4 pacers they should have rather had Ashton Agar in the playing XI as his style of bowling would have suited Aussies a great deal.
It was a massive house full of jam-packed crowd witnessed at the Pindi Stadium, people from all walks of life thronged the stadium in massive numbers. It was already expected a full crowd, as tickets for the first two days were completely sold out. Even though Australian bowlers don’t have the best of the days in the field but they really enjoyed the highly noisy and buzzing environment. Families, kids, girls and even elder citizens were seen in the crowd in massive numbers. Tee PCB deserves all the credit for making top class arrangements. Media and Communications Officer Syed Nazir Ahmed, Ibrahim Badees, Assistant Manager Media and Communications along with Director Media PCB Sami-ul-Hassan Burni remained present at the media box throughout the day.
Unlike in past, the majority of sports journalists' accreditation cards were issued by the PCB without any complications while few still left out to get their due right of accreditation cards, including senior sports journalist Aqeel Anjum, Nauman Maqsood, Abdul Ghaffar Khan and few others. But PCB Director Media Sami had assured that he will look into the matter and will take every step to resolve the issue. Rawalpindi Islamabad Sports Journalist Association Chairman Zahid Awan, President Nasir Aslam Raja and Secretary Shah Khaliad Khan had met with PCB Director Media and informed him about the issues, upon which RISJA was given assurance of resolving the issues amicably.
Meanwhile, while addressing the virtual conference, centurion Imam expressed his utter satisfaction over scoring an important century for Pakistan.
He praised Lyon and other Australian bowlers and term them world-class bowlers. “I was sure, I will be successful in Test cricket. As a cricketer, I am always ready and prepared to perform and I enter the crease with positive intent. I am not concerned nor bothered about outside noise or what people think and say about me. My job is to perform whenever given opportunities. My father is very happy on my ton and I feel differently today. Tomorrow is a crucial day and I will try to carry forward where I left today. Azhar Ali gave me full support. There were a lot of things running back of mind early in my innings but because of Azhar, I managed to play such a solid innings.”
Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Governor Sindh also visited Rawalpindi Stadium. Talking to sports journalists, Fawad Ch said: “India is still feeling the heat of World Cup loss. We must carry forward Pakistan and Indian sports. We should start people to people contact with Indian people and bilateral cricketing ties with India must resume. Imran Ismail is going to meet PM Imran Khan and hopefully, PM Khan will also witness the Test match. We are very delighted to see people are very happy to witness Pakistan-Australia playing at Pindi Stadium after a 24 long years gap. The PM has sent best wishes to Babar and Pakistan team and also thanked the Australian team for making the month of March so special by visiting and playing in Pakistan. Entire Pakistani nation was waiting anxiously for Australian team’s visit.”
He also thanked Australian High Commissioner for making tireless efforts to ensure the Australian teams' visit.