ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan cricket greats have heaped praise on national skipper Babar Azam and wicket-keeper/batsman Mohammad Rizwan after their standout performance against South Africa in the third Twenty20 International of a four-match series at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

Giving their team a glorious 197-run start in a mammoth chase of 204, openers Babar (122 off 59 balls) and Rizwan (73 not out off 47) steered Pakistan to a comfortable nine-wicket win with two overs to spare. The victory gave the tourists an unassailable 2-1 lead in the series.

“I’ve never seen such a superb innings, and I think Pakistan fans too would have never seen such a brilliant batting display,” former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq said in a YouTube video. “I think no one even would have batted like that against Zimbabwe [bowling attack]. He [Babar] scored a brisk 122 and that too without going for big hits. The way he displayed his class, it will not be wrong to call him the [world’s] number one batsman.”

According to Inzamam, Babar’s level was very high and he should not only break compatriot players’ records but also world records.

“He is a consistent performer. Ive never seen a player to continuously perform for such a long period. Scoring runs is a class, but scoring runs effortlessly [like Babar] is a different class.”

Inzamam also applauded Rizwan saying that he had been consistent for the past one year. “No matter at which number you send him to bat, he will [always] deliver.”

He said Rizwan proved his critics wrong by playing such a knock as a T20 opener.

“The good thing about Pakistan’s top-order batsmen, both in ODIs and T20Is, is that they try to stay at the crease. If they are chasing a big total, they seem determined right from the outset,” Inzamam underlined.

Former opener Ramiz Raja said Babar played the best innings of his career.

“Even in international cricket you may not find such a beautiful innings. Babar has each and everything. He is orthodox. He does improvisation too. He has [an excellent] temperament and fitness,” Ramiz said.

He said Pakistan achieved the 200-plus target quite easily. “You can’t ignore Rizwan’s performance too. He was fasting but at no point, it seemed that his fitness was compromised. He fought wholeheartedly.

“In fact, it was he who provided the rhythm [to the chase]. It was Rizwan, who actually set the blistering platform in the initial part of the partnership between him and Babar,” the cricketer-turned-commentator added.

Former fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar also expressed the delight at Babar’s stunning performance.

“He is improving his game with each passing day. He has just leapfrogged [Indian captain] Virat Kohli to become the number one ODI batsman. It’s a ravishing performance,” the speedster stated.

“Eventually, Babar is going to get better and better. He has given a shut-up call to some his critics, who were saying that in T20 his strike rate is not good. He has told them that if he scores 50 runs off as many balls, he can also score 125 to 150 runs off 50,” Shoaib remarked.

“This guy [Babar] is brilliant with the bat. His stroke-making ability is just amazing. He’s indeed a mighty Babar Azam and when he bats he bats like a poetry man.”

Shoaib also lauded Rizwan for playing a superb knock, saying his role was critical in Pakistan’s win.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2021

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