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One of Pakistan's best: Shafique showered in praise after Test exploits

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The plaudits have come in thick and fast for first Test hero Abdullah Shafique with one former great declaring his match-winning innings against Sri Lanka as one of the greatest he has ever seen from a Pakistan player, while skipper Babar Azam believes the right-hander can become one of the best players in the world.

Shafique showed his class with a brilliant unbeaten 160 to help Pakistan chase down 342 for victory on the final day of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle on Wednesday and the 22-year-old has now amassed a whopping 720 runs from his first six Test matches.

It was an innings that oozed class from Shafique, with the young batter defying his age to blunt a dangerous Sri Lankan bowling attack that featured in-form spinner Prabath Jayasuriya.

Shafique's knock helped the Asian nation rise to third on the latest World Test Championship standings and Pakistan great and former captain Wasim Akram was suitably impressed with his efforts as he took to social media to share his delight.

"Awesome innings … we have seen such a wonderful knock after a long time, especially in the fourth innings and the way the pitch was playing," Wasim said of Shafique.

"He took his full turn and that’s under tremendous pressure… one of the best from a Pakistani I have ever seen...take a bow!"

Only India great Sunil Gavaskar, Australia legend Don Bradman and West Indies star George Headley have scored more runs than Shafique through the first six Test matches of their respective careers and Babar said the sky is the limit for the Pakistan opener.

While stopping short of declaring Shafique as currently the best Test opener in the world, Babar said the in-form right-hander is more than capable of reaching those lofty heights in the future should he continue his upward curve.

"As a youngster, when you make your case, you have to perform in different and difficult conditions," Babar said. 

"He showed his class, temperament, and how confident he is. 

"Batting against quality bowling is going to boost his confidence. 

"The way he plays is so clean, and how he remained focused makes it quite evident that there are many more (centuries) to come. 

"Though it's just six matches and it's too early to say that (he is the best opener in the world right now) but as a player, I think and hope that he can become one of the best."

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Babar played a pivotal role in the victory himself as he scored his seventh Test century during the first innings to help Pakistan cobble together 218 and keep them within striking distance of Sri Lanka's score of 222 on the opening day.

While Babar may have scored larger and more eye-catching centuries in the past, the Pakistan skipper knows how vital this innings proved in the outcome of the match.

"It's kind of special, you can say, because the team needed me," Babar said of his first innings exploits. 

"Scoring in difficult conditions, and achieving something from it, takes your confidence and satisfaction to a different level. 

"One of the best (innings), you can say, because it was different. Wickets were down, batting with tailenders ... you required double concentration with them at the other end. 

"You have to guide them and have to watch out for yourself as well. Then the field is open and you have to find scoring options. 

"So in all this, you have had to plan and execute all around. So I am very happy with it."

The second and final Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan commences in Galle on Sunday.

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