Babar Azam bats during the 2019 Cricket World Cup warm up match between Pakistan and Afghanistan at Bristol County Ground in Bristol, southwest England, on May 24, 2019.

Babar Azam’s century provides crumb of comfort to Pakistan following defeat by Afghanistan

Media release

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Pakistan are more than accustomed to being viewed as outsiders coming into global tournaments. It is a position they have previously used to their advantage, with Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side upsetting the odds only two years ago to lift the ICC Champions Trophy on English soil.

  • Babar Azam scored 112 but Pakistan fell to defeat to Afghanistan by three wickets 
  • Pakistan won the World Cup in 1992 and have a habit of turning up at international tournaments  

Pakistan are more than accustomed to being viewed as outsiders coming into global tournaments. It is a position they have previously used to their advantage, with Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side upsetting the odds only two years ago to lift the ICC Champions Trophy on English soil.

And despite that triumph, which included a stunning 180-run win over fierce rivals India in the final, expectations have been tempered once again ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.

This time around, a mixed run of one-day form and selection issues have dogged Pakistan’s build-up to the flagship event in the international cricket calendar

The 1992 World Cup champions were swept aside 4-0 by England earlier this month.  That series defeat extended their overall record to ten consecutive ODI defeats and prompted Pakistan management to recall Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz from the international wilderness.

But amid the disappointment of suffering a clean sweep to the World Cup hosts, Pakistan did find comfort in the formidable form of Babar Azam.

The 24-year-old, the world’s top-ranked Twenty20 international batsman, appeared at home in English conditions during his four innings, notching 234 runs at an average of 117.

With two half-centuries and a century, he stood head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates as his classy stroke-making proved a constant thorn in England’s side.

And he was at it again in Pakistan’s opening warm up game against Afghanistan, firing another century to hold together his nation’s vulnerable batting unit against the perennial underdogs.

Pakistan had won all three of their previous encounters against Afghanistan before their meeting at the Bristol County Ground, although they had been run close in the Asia Cup last year. 

Yet there was a feeling of an upset in the air before a bowl was even bowled and Afghanistan’s confidence was only bolstered after Imam-ul-Haq was removed for 32 runs in the ninth over.

His wicket brought Azam to the crease - and it was not long before he was working his magic, greeting Hamid Hassan with two boundaries, including a picture-perfect cover drive.

While Azam appeared comfortable from the moment he walked out, opener Fakhar Zaman survived a number of scares from the start of the innings.

He was left stranded in the eighth over after Mujeeb Rahman beat the edge of his bat, only for Afghanistan wicketkeeper Mohammed Shazhad to miss his chance at a stumping.

That let off was soon followed by further missed chances when Zaman was dropped twice in three balls - first off the bowling of Hassan, and then from Mohammad Nabi’s delivery.

His luck eventually ran out in the 11th over when Nabi got the wicket he deserved, with Zaman beaten through the gate by one which turned less than he was expecting.

Nabi followed up his first breakthrough by taking another wicket two balls later as Harris Sohail edged the ball onto his own stumps to leave Pakistan on 65-3.

But while the wickets were falling around him, Azam remained in complete control as he continued to pile on runs, bringing up his half century from 51 balls to steady the innings.

Not once did Amaz look in danger of giving up his wicket despite Rashid Khan causing his Pakistan teammates all sorts of bother, removing Mohammad Hafeez for 12.

He received some much-needed support from the next man in, Shoaib Malik, as the pairing started to pick up the run rate and the first six of the game arrived in the 33rd over.

Amaz continued to pick off the bad balls and, despite losing Malik in the 38th over, he completed a beautifully crafted century off 99 balls in the 43rd over as Pakistan finished on 262 all out.

His efforts ultimately proved to be in vain as Afghanistan completed a memorable victory off the final over - further evidence of their rapid improvement on the international stage. 

The three-wicket victory was deserved reward for the Afghans. But in Amaz, Pakistan possess a player with such talent that their World Cup hopes should not be written off just yet.

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