Pakistani batsmen face hot reception on spicier tracks

Pakistani batsman Azhar Ali (R) plays a shot next to New Zealand wicketkeeper BJ Watling during the third day of the third and final Test cricket match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the Sheikh Zayed International Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on December 5, 2018.
Pakistani batsman Azhar Ali (R) plays a shot next to New Zealand wicketkeeper BJ Watling during the third day of the third and final Test cricket match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the Sheikh Zayed International Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on December 5, 2018.
Image: AAMIR QURESHI / AFP

Pakistan’s senior batsmen weren’t quite missing in action in the recent Test cricket series against New Zealand.

SA’s spicier surfaces‚ though‚ mean that Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali will have to stand up and be counted in no uncertain terms.

Pakistan’s wicketkeeper-batsman and captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, is fully aware of this and knows big runs are needed to stand a chance of competing on a level footing.

On Pakistan’s last tour to these shores in 2012-13‚ where the visitors were blanked in all three Tests‚ Shafiq (199 runs at 33.16) and Ali (133 runs at 22.16) flattered to deceive in a series where the bowlers held sway.

Shafiq compiled a superb 100 in the second Test in Cape Town alongside Younus Khan but they lost that engrossing game by four wickets.

The former was Pakistan’s top run-scorer in a lineup that was bolstered by Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq.

“Our expectation for both batsmen is very good,” Ahmed said.

“Hopefully they’ll perform well for this tour because on the previous tour‚ Asad scored a 100 in Cape Town and Azhar also scored some runs in that series.

“They know the conditions reasonably well and I think they’ll perform very well.”

The opening batting conundrum has dogged Pakistan’s cricket for pretty much the last 20 or so years and that hasn’t changed.

Mohammad Hafeez’s retirement from Test cricket means Pakistan will have to find another opening pair.

Imam-ul-Haq‚ the nephew of Pakistan’s chief selector and legendary batsman Inzamamul-Haq‚ could find himself partnering Shan Masood or Fakhar Zaman.

The latter is not known for his temperament but is an effective opener.

Ahmed said they would cope without Hafeez while Zaman’s fitness will be tested before the first Boxing Day Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

“We know he’s retired but he’s played very well for Pakistan in the past 15 years. He’s been a crucial member for the Test team but he’s not available now‚” he said.

“But if you talk about the recent Tests‚ we haven’t struggled much in the opening department. In the last five matches‚ we’ve used Hafeez and Imam and Shan Masood.

“Hopefully Fakhar Zaman will be back in the team. At the moment‚ he’s working really hard and hopefully he’ll be fit for the first Test.”

X