Azhar Ali – The silent warrior

Younis Khan and Misbah ul-Haq get most of the credit for Pakistan’s recent success in Test cricket, as one is the skipper and other is the highest run-getter but most people forget the contribution of Azhar Ali.

Azhar Ali joined the team to bat at No.3 position against Australia in 2010 series in England and scored a very important fifty in Pakistan’s narrow win in the second test, when Pakistan ended the 13-match losing streak against the Aussies.

He also played a key role in the Oval test win against England, which was only his fifth test match. Azhar Ali top-scored with 92 not out in the first innings.

Azhar Ali scored a century when needed the most, in the third test against Sri Lanka in 2014 when Pakistan were 1-0 down in the series and had to win the match to level the series.

Pakistan needed more than 300 in less than 60 overs on the final day. Scoring at more than 5 runs per over on the final day is almost impossible, but Azhar Ali’s century made sure that Pakistan did not lose the series.

In the third test against England in 2012, Pakistan were bowled out for 99 in the first innings, but it was Azhar Ali’s 157-run effort in the second innings which helped Pakistan whitewash England 3-0 for the first time.

Against Australia he scored centuries in both innings of the 2014 Abu Dhabi Test to play a key role in Pakistan’s 2-0 whitewash win against the mighty Aussies.

Azhar scored a double century against Bangladesh in Bangaldesh and became only the fourth Pakistani to score a triple century in the historic day/night Test against West Indies. He became the first player to score a century in a day/night test and turned that into a triple ton to enter the history books.

After being named captain of the ODI side, which was not his natural game, Azhar often got blamed for the failures as captain and batsman. His Test batting performances were overshadowed but many doubted his talent for scoring only in Asia.

Azhar was given a difficult task to open the batting in England, where he had to face the new ball. Azhar Ali scored a century in Birmingham to silence his critics.

His best performance has come just now though, against Australia, as he scored a double century at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) against bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood when Misbah and Younis failed. By scoring an undefeated 205 today, and becoming the second highest run-scorer at MCG as a visiting batsman just staying three runs short of the legendary Sir Vivian Richards’ highest 208, Azhar Ali has certainly assured the Pakistan team fans that Pakistan team will be in safe hands after the retirement of Misbah and Younis.

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