Tuesday October 03, 2023

Brilliant Babar Azam on path to greatness

Babar’s unbeaten 101 on a tricky Edgbaston wicket in a six-wicket win against New Zealand kept Pakistan in the hunt for a place in the World Cup semi-finals.

June 27, 2019

BIRMINGHAM: Shaheen Shah Afridi softened up the opposition with a lethal spell of fast bowling. But it was Babar Azam, who delivered the killer punch.

Babar’s unbeaten 101 on a tricky Edgbaston wicket in a six-wicket win against New Zealand kept Pakistan in the hunt for a place in the World Cup semi-finals.

So it was hardly surprising when Babar was received by his peers as one would receive a hero returning from a triumphant campaign.

“There were cheers and hugs all around,” said a team official. “The man of the moment was obviously Babar but Haris Sohail and Shaheen Afridi also received due appreciation from the players and team officials. The mood was really joyous because the boys know that now they had a great chance of reaching the semi-finals.”

It wouldn’t have been possible without Babar ton, the finest and most valuable of his ten ODI hundreds. His 101 was Pakistan’s first World Cup hundred scored by a non-opening batsman since 1997.

“It’s one of my best innings,” said a humble Babar after playing the lead role in Pakistan’s win against New Zealand.

Babar and Haris blunted an impressive New Zealand attack that included Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson’s pace and Mitchell Santner's spin to chase down a victory target of 238 on Wednesday.

“The wicket was very difficult and turned a lot in the second half. The plan was to go through to the end and give my 100 per cent. When we started, the plan was to see out Ferguson but when Santner came on, the plan became not to give wickets to him and cover up later when the fast bowlers come on,” said Babar, who put on 126 for the fourth wicket with Haris Sohail to seal Pakistan’s victory.

Babar was confident Pakistan will make it to the last four.

“We are confident and hopefully we will qualify. We are very focused on doing that.”

The main talking point these days has been the eerie similarities between Pakistan’s World Cup-winning campaign in 1992 and the current one.

But Babar said that he and his team wasn’t thinking about it.

“We are not thinking about it. We just know that these are do-and-die matches and that we have to win all of them.”

With his 101, the 24-year-old Babar has now accumulated 333 runs from six outings. With a few more prolific knocks, he could join the list of all-time greats like Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar, who amassed 523 runs at the 1996 World Cup aged just 22.

Babar hoped that he would one day join the list of great batsmen. But he was quick to add that his main target is to help Pakistan win matches.

“My target is to join the top players. I always go out there to give my hundred percent and play for the team's cause. It's all about helping the team win matches.”

Pakistan have to beat Afghanistan and Bangladesh in their remaining two group games and then hope results of some other World Cup matches go in their favour in order for them to qualify for the semis.

“Things are getting better for us. We have great belief in one another,” Babar said.

Babar acknowledged that huge crowd support at Edgbaston was a motivating factor for Pakistan.

“Obviously when you get this type of support you enjoy it and you get more confident. I enjoy playing in front of such supportive crowds.”

Babar also thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan for his tweet in which he praised the trio of Babar, Haris and Shaheen Afridi.

“Thank you to the PM for supporting us. He is such a great player and his appreciation means a lot.”

Babar, who dedicated his match-winning to his family and friends, said that there is a positive vibe in the Pakistani camp.

“We have a positive feeling. Our plan is to just give our 100 percent. We are just thinking about the next group games,” said Babar, who is currently at fifth place on the list of all-time under-25 run scorers in a single World Cup edition. He is level with Brian Lara’s contribution in 1992, and within striking distance of Ricky Ponting’s 354 in 1999 and AB de Villiers 372 in 2007.