Azhar Ali – Pakistan’s Wall

Azhar Ali has proven to be one of the most consistent batsmen for Pakistan in Tests and has provided stability at the top when most openers have failed around him. His numbers are outstanding and his ability to score big all around the world is what makes him the backbone of the Pakistani batting line. With an average of 58.37 in last one year, he has quietly accumulated runs through his grit & determination. Let us recall a few of his memorable innings over the course of these twelve months:

139 against England at Edgbaston

Pakistan lost their opener Mohammad Hafeez in the first over of the match when Azhar Ali walked in to a familiar situation and brought much needed stability to the middle order. To score against a decent England bowling attack in England is no mean feat & Azhar demonstrated his ability to counter the moving ball by leaving well and occupying the crease. He reached his 100 with a pull off Stuart Broad and celebrated with ten push ups as a tribute to the captain Misbah-ul-Haq.

302 against West Indies at Dubai

Azhar Ali became the fourth Pakistani to score a triple century, at Dubai against West Indies last year. Azhar spent 11 hours on the crease to score that triple, with the help of 23 fours and two sixes. Despite the fact that Azhar was suffering from cramps in that Dubai heat, he showed defiance against the new ball and demonstrated great temperament to succeed in the longest format of the game.

71 against Australia at Brisbane

This Test match would always be remembered for the epic chase of Pakistan where they fell short of just forty runs chasing 490. However, Pakistan would never have been in a position to come this far had it not been for the brilliant 137 by Shafiq & the 71 by Azhar Ali at the top. While Sami Aslam threw his wicket away early on, Azhar Ali managed to grind out a 71 by occupying the crease for 179 balls. He also hit three back-to-back fours against Jackson Bird in that innings, indicative of his ability to switch gears and dominate the bowling when required.

205* against Australia at Melbourne

Melbourne Cricket Ground, the largest cricket stadium in the world, was witness to an outstanding double century from Azhar Ali, enabling the team to reach a solid first innings total of 443. It was the highest score by a Pakistani in Australia and just the fourth double century by a batsman playing at the MCG. His double century was a celebration of his skills as a batsman and featured his usual lofted ondrives and offdrives. Unfortunate that his contribution went in vain as Pakistan suffered a typical fifth day batting collapse and lost the Test by an innings and 18 runs.

105 against West Indies at Bridgetown

Azhar  might not be naturally as gifted as some of the former players of Pakistan, for instance Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousaf, but his consistency on all grounds makes him one of the  the top Test players of the world. In the second Test against West Indies at Bridgetown, Pakistan managed to score 393 runs with Azhar Ali scoring yet another century consuming 298 balls. On a pitch with uneven bounce, Azhar exhibited supreme levels of concentration and eventually cut one in the air to reach his 100, celebrating yet again by offering a salute to the captain, Misbah-ul-Haq.

While these might be his few prominent knocks of last year, he has also scored a 71 at Sydney, 58 vs New Zealand at Hamilton and a 91 at Sharjah, all unfortunately  in losing causes. His demeanour has always been understated,never searching for recognition and always quietly doing his job. Pakistan will soon be without the two stalwarts Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan but if the numbers are anything to go by,the future lies with the likes of Azhar Ali.

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