LAHORE: Babar Azam continues to smash records; the skipper leading from the front as Pakistan won their first One-day International series against Australia in 20 years on Saturday.
Babar’s second consecutive century helped Pakistan secure a nine-wicket victory over Australia in the final ODI at the Gaddafi Stadium, helping the hosts clinch the three-match series 2-1.
En route to his knock and the win, Babar left behind former India captain Virat Kohli and Hashim Amla to script a staggering ODI world record and equalled a stunning captaincy feat of Sourav Ganguly.
His unbeaten 105 was his 16th career ton in 84 innings, making him the fastest to reach that mark. Former South Africa batter Hashim Amla held the record previously, having scored his 16th ton in his 94th innings while Kohli and Australia opener David Warner reached that mark in 110 innings.
Babar also holds the record for the fastest to seventh, 13th, 14th and 15th ODI ton in world cricket.
The ton century was also Babar’s fourth while chasing in ODI cricket as a captain, which is the joint second-most in the world alongside former India captain Ganguly. The two stand second to only Kohli (13) among Asian captains in the format.
Three of these hundreds came in a winning cause which is the third among Asian skippers after Kohli (11) and Ganguly (4).
“We will take the car for a round or two,” a smiling Babar said at the presentation ceremony after being awarded the man-of-the-series trophy, which also saw him given keys to the car.
Pakistan had lost six consecutive ODI series to Australia before this series and the omens didn’t look good when they had been thrashed in the opening match of this rubber against the tourists who were missing several of their big name players.
The series victory pushed Pakistan to eighth place in the Super League from which the top seven teams will directly qualify for next year’s Cricket World Cup in India. Australia were fourth.
“When you lose the first game, you need confidence, and credit goes to the players for stepping up their game in the last two matches,” Babar said.
“The players took responsibility and showed good efforts with the ball and the bat. When you get early wickets, there is pressure on the opposition. Almost every bowler of ours executed their plans. There is pressure but you should your game. I try to take most of the pressure and back my boys.”
Following Babar’s heroics with the bat, the plaudits poured in from all parts of the world. Among them was former England captain Michael Vaughan, who called the Pakistan star “simply outstanding”.
Unlike Babar, his Australian counterpart Aaron Finch isn’t been in top form with the bat. But the 35-year-old said he was determined to turn things around in their tour of Sri Lanka.
Finch was dismissed lbw for his second duck in as many innings in the series-deciding defeat to Pakistan.
The right-hander has had eight single figure scores during his last 11 international innings with a top score of 35 and is under pressure to lead Australia in their defence of the Twenty20 World Cup title at home this year.
“It hasn’t been up to scratch,” Finch said of his recent form. “I’ve been well short of runs in the Sri Lankan series [at home] and this series here in Pakistan, there’s no doubting that.
“It’s frustrating and as you get older you probably question yourself a little bit more but I still feel all my training has been really positive. “It’s just been the first couple of balls getting my pad in the way, which has been a thing throughout my career. But I’m still very confident I can turn it around in the next series against Sri Lanka.”
Australia, who will end the tour — their first to Pakistan in 24 years — with a one-off Twenty20 on Tuesday, are due to play three Twenty20 internationals, five ODIs and two Tests when they visit Sri Lanka in June and July for the first time since 2016.
Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2022