KARACHI: An elated Babar Azam heaped praise on Shaheen Shah Afridi and Fawad Alam after the duo played pivotal role in Pakistan’s series-levelling victory in the second Test against the West Indies in Kingston.
While addressing a tour-ending virtual presser on Wednesday hours before the squad was due to leave for Lahore via London, the Pakistan skipper singled out player-of-the-match and the series Shaheen, who grabbed 10-94 and Fawad, who scored the only century on the series on either side (124 not out), as the real heroes of the 109-run triumph at Sabina Park.
“Shaheen really came of age in this series and was truly amazing in the second Test. There is no doubt in my mind that Shaheen made huge impact across both [the] Tests,” Babar said. “He was simply unplayable throughout the series.
“Fawad yet again showed tremendous resilience by playing one of the most defining knocks for Pakistan. His innings laid the foundation of our victory,” the skipper added.
Babar said despite the loss of a full day’s play and more interruptions during the match his target was to keep every team-mate focussed.
“We had no options but to do a lot of rethinking to make up for the time. Our game-plan in the second innings was to score as quickly as possible because we wanted to bowl at least 25 overs before stumps on the fourth evening. Our openers [Abid Ali and Imran Butt] provided the start we were hoping for adding 70 in quick time. That definitely helped us achieve our main objective: to set West Indies a 320-plus target,” the skipper remarked.
Commenting on the heartbreaking loss in the first Test by one wicket, Babar said it was painful but his players were determined to hit back.
“It was disappointing not to win that game after getting so close. It did hurt us badly but we paid heavily for dropping catches. And yet there was no way we felt down and lacking in confidence,” he said.
“The self-belief was always there that we are capable of bouncing back despite the conditions being tough for the batters throughout the series, especially for the openers because negotiating the new ball on these unreliable pitches was very challenging.
“To comeback from three wickets for two runs was one example of how determined we were as one unit. Both myself and Fawad never let ourselves get flustered by the situation.
“The way Fawad went about his job was exemplary. He taught the rest of the team how to play during the most difficult phase of the match. Fawad’s grit after going off with cramps was a great example of what one can achieve,” the captain stated.
Babar further said that staying patience played a big role in the victory. “We were racing against the clock because of the time lost, and our plan was simple: to pick up wickets by not losing our focus and patience. But when you are trying for a win, the element of patience is a key factor since one can get rash quickly enough.
“It was a total team effort. Apart from Shaheen and Fawad, everyone chipped in when it mattered. Nauman Ali showed his skills with the old ball and did a fine job,” Babar concluded.
Shaheen, Fawad attain career-best rankings
Shaheen and Fawad Alam rose to career-high rankings in the latest ICC Test player rankings, which were released on Wednesday.
Shaheen has vaulted 10 places to eighth in the bowling rankings, while left-handed Fawad has rocketed 34 places to sit just outside the top-20 in 21st position in the batting rankings.
Babar also gained one place and move ahead of India’s Rishabh Pant in seventh position.
Pakistan’s next Test series is against Bangladesh after the ICC T20 World Cup.
Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2021