Only 49 overs of play was possible on Day 1 of England vs Pakistan 1st Test match in Manchester but it was enough for Pakistan’s Babar Azam to convince former England captain Nasser Hussain that he is in the league of Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root.
When bad light forced an early close at Old Trafford, Pakistan were 139-2, with Babar 69 not out and Shan Masood unbeaten on 46. This was Babar’s fifth consecutive 50-plus score in as many Tests with his previous five matches yielding three hundreds.
Watching Babar play some breathtaking drives against the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes, Hussain, who is currently regarded as one of the best commentators going around, went on to say that people don’t talk about Babar much as he is not India captain Virat Kohli.
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“If this lad was Virat Kohli, everyone would be talking about it but because it is Babar Azam, no one is talking about it,” said former England captain Nasser Hussain while commentating for Sky Sports.
“He’s young, he’s elegant, he’s got all the swagger,” he added.
Hussain also added that Babar Azam has forced way into the top five batsmen of the world, making it ‘Fab Five and no longer Fab Four.
“They keep going on about the ‘Fab Four (Kohli, Australia’s Steve Smith, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and England captain Joe Root) — it’s the ‘Fab Five’ and Babar Azam is in that.”
England coach Chris Silverwood said: “We know we’re up against a very good batsman.”
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Pakistan were 43-2 when Babar came in after captain Azhar Ali, who had won the toss, fell lbw for a duck to Chris Woakes.
Babar started cautiously but after lunch he unfurled an array of stylish attacking shots en route to a 70-ball fifty featuring nine fours.
He struck express paceman Jofra Archer down the ground before driving Bess for another boundary to bring up Pakistan’s hundred.
Bess, however, should have removed Masood for 45 when he took the left-hander’s outside edge but Buttler dropped the chance.
When play resumed in the early evening after a long rain delay, Root was soon bowling his occasional off-breaks in tandem with Bess to try and keep the match going under grey skies after Archer had pitched short to Babar.
But even with two spinners bowling and the floodlights on, the umpires still called a halt at 6:12 pm (1712 GMT) before the ground was bathed in sunshine soon afterwards.
Ahead of the Test match, Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali had also shared similar words about Babar.
Azhar, asked if the England series would see Babar join Australia’s Steve Smith and India’s Virat Kohli in the top bracket of Test batsmen, told British media: “I think he is right up there already.
“People are thinking and talking about it. He is just hungry for runs and I think if he keeps doing that he will be up there for quite a long time.
“His performances have improved massively in Test matches over the last year or so. Firstly, he was performing really well in white-ball cricket and people thought he was only a white-ball player but he took on that challenge and played with a lot of freedom and flair.”
(With agency inputs)
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