KARACHI: Pakistan gallantly saved the second Test against Australia in Karachi, thanks to Babar Azam’s epic, Mohammad Rizwan’s resilience and the fortitude of young Abdullah Shafique.

Sarfraz Nawaz, however, expected a bit more than the gigantic effort made by the hosts at the National Stadium where Pakistan overall have lost only two Tests out of 44 while recording 23 wins.

“In the end there was a difference of 60-odd runs [between Pakistan’s final score of 443-7 and 506-run target]. When the Babar-Rizwan partnership was progressing, Pakistan should have tried to increase the run-rate and go for what would have been a huge and historic victory,” former Pakistan Test pace bowler Sarfraz said while talking to Dawn over phone from England on Thursday.

“They could’ve won it. I was surprised to see them getting excessively defensive in the last couple of hours [on the final day] on a wicket that did not have any demons. Moreover, with Pakistan gradually moving towards their target, Australia had gone into the defensive mode and that was point the batters should have taken the initiative,” the 73-year-old emphasized.

On why Pakistan in the first place let Pat Cummins-led Australia post a huge 556 at the National Stadium, Sarfraz said the home team missed a quality leg-spinner.

“On a dry pitch under hot weather, like the one in Karachi, a genuine leg-spinner is very effective, which Pakistan have missed in the current series. The selectors should have tried Yasir Shah [reserve] or Zahid Mahmood [part of squad]. Had there been a leg-spinner in the Pakistan squad the story of the Karachi Test could have been different,” he reckoned.

“Even now if Pakistan include a leg-spinner for the third Test in Lahore, that can definitely help our cause as Australia’s middle-order doesn’t look that strong and can be pierced.”

Sarfraz said Pakistan could have the upper hand in Lahore.

“With an appropriate playing XI, Pakistan can control the proceedings in Lahore,” the former right-arm pacer said.

Former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal, meanwhile, termed Pakistan’s effort the “greatest fightback in the history of Pakistan cricket”.

“I would put this [Karachi] Test, the [poor] performance in the first innings followed by their comeback in the second innings, as the greatest fightback in the history of Pakistan cricket,” England-based Asif told Dawn on Thursday.

“And I think this effort is also among the top two or three in the history of cricketing world.”

Asif, 78, explained the reason for labelling the Test as the “greatest fightback”.

“The 1957 Test against a ferocious bowling attack of West Indies in Bridgetown remains Pakistan’s greatest-ever comeback in Test cricket, courtesy great Hanif Mohammad’s marathon 337. However, considering modern-day cricket is all about power-hitting and tall scores, with batters expected to play aggressive strokes, forcing a draw in a contemporary Test while chasing a gigantic 500-plus [against a world-class team like Australia] is an exceptional performance.

“What magnificent batting by Abdullah, Babar and then Rizwan. It was awesome, amazing performance.

“Head coach Saqlain Mushtaq also duly deserves credit for this monumental effort. His influence on the players’ on-field performance in the dressing room is showing,” Asif added.

Aamir Sohail, another former Pakistan skipper, lauded Pakistan’s fighting show in Karachi saying it reminded him of Salim Malik and himself saving a home Test against Australia back in 1994.

“It is a great fightback by Pakistan and reminds me of the efforts of Salim Malik in the 1994 Test series [against Australia]. Babar was no short, what a complete innings, a mixture of defence and offence,” the 55-year-old Aamir told Dawn.

“I can relate Babar innings [in Karachi] to Malik’s 143 in the 1994 Lahore Test where I scored 105 while playing second fiddle,” southpaw Aamir recalled. Answering a question on Abdullah, the former opener reckoned the batter had a bright future.

“Abdullah showed a lot of courage [in Karachi]. However, I think he is still in the making and needs to improve his back foot game. He is a bright prospect with good defensive technique,” Aamir said of the 22-year-old batter who made a polished 96 in the second innings at Karachi.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2022

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