Pak­istan’s young­sters fill Sar­fraz with hope

Cap­tain proud of Imam and Babar

Sport360 - - News - By Dan Gil­lott @Sport360 edi­to­rial@sport360.com

Pak­istan cap­tain Sar­fraz Ahmed praised the char­ac­ter of young bats­men Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam af­ter they en­sured his de­ci­sion to en­force the fol­low-on in Ire­land’s in­au­gu­ral Test did not back­fire. Only three times in the 141-year his­tory of Test cricket have a side won af­ter fol­low­ing on but when Pak­istan were 14-3, chas­ing a mod­est 160 to win on Tues­day’s fi­nal day of this stand­alone match, it seemed Ire­land might mark their en­try into the for­mat with a stun­ning suc­cess.

But 22-year-old left-handed opener Imam, him­self mak­ing a Test de­but, re­sponded to the pres­sure of the sit­u­a­tion with a com­posed 74 not out – his third fifty of the tour fol­low­ing half-centuries in warm-up matches against Kent and Northamp­ton­shire.

To­gether with the 23-year-old Babar, who made 59 af­ter be­ing dropped on nine shortly af­ter lunch, he shared a stand of 126 that took Pak­istan to the brink of an even­tual five-wicket win over a com­pet­i­tive Ire­land side.

The way Imam in par­tic­u­lar coped un­der grey skies against some lively pace bowl­ing was an es­pe­cially heart­en­ing sign for Pak­istan ahead of their up­com­ing two-Test se­ries in Eng­land.

It also meant Pak­istan had not failed in a run chase again.

Their pre­vi­ous Test, against Sri Lanka in the UAE in Oc­to­ber, saw them beaten af­ter a tar­get of 136 proved beyond them as left-arm spin­ner Ran­gana Herath took six wick­ets for 43 runs.

“Def­i­nitely we were wor­ried when we were down 14 for three,” Sar­fraz told re­porters.

“But it’s re­ally good that these two young play­ers in our team, Ima­mul-Haq and Babar Azam, the way they played, they showed their char­ac­ter, they showed their con­fi­dence.

“I think the way they played gives great con­fi­dence to the team and will help them in the next matches as well,” the wicket-keeper added.

Pak­istan were reel­ing af­ter los­ing three wick­ets in­side five overs and their skip­per feared another morale-sap­ping loss was at hand.

“In the last Test match when we were chas­ing 136 and we were all out for about 120.

“Yeah we were think­ing when we called for the fol­low-on if we were bat­ting in the fourth in­nings it would be very dif­fi­cult,” he added.

Pak­istan, un­der­stand­ably enough, have been strug­gling to re­place the likes of re­tired vet­eran bats­men Mis­bah-ul-Haq and You­nis Khan.

How­ever Imam didn’t just hold his nerve but counter-at­tacked with a ma­tu­rity be­ly­ing his lack of ex­pe­ri­ence. And with Fa­heem Ashraf, Pak­istan’s other debu­tant, mak­ing 83 in the first in­nings, Sar­fraz was in buoy­ant mood.

“We are very confident. We are a very young side, we had two debu­tant play­ers, but we were very confident what­ever the tar­get will come, we will chase it down.”

The way they played gives great con­fi­dence to the team and will help them in next matches – Sar­fraz

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