The noise in Karachi National Stadium was deafening. Babar Azam
propelled David Willey through extra cover and leapt into the cool night sky, slamming the air and dipping into the roar of a sold-out crowd. Mohammad Rizwan
held his arms up, took off his helmet and looked up to the sky before walking over to his opening partner and wrapping his arms around him.
They had just taken the biggest 10 wicket win in T20 history and were the first pair to partner up for 200 runs in a T20 run chase. break their own record
. But more than that, after relentless scrutiny and criticism, they had reminded their fans how brilliantly effective they can be.
For Pakistan, T20 international cricket is about the thrill of the chase. Since Rizwan was promoted to opening battle in December 2020, Pakistan has won 15 matches in second place and lost only three; if they bat first, they have won as many matches as they have lost (10 each).
At the innings break, a goal of 200 seemed like a tough task, even in a field where average scores are high and three out of five chases are successful. Pakistani sailors were expensive, but the ball slid low through them, while slower balls seemed to grab from a length. “I thought it was a very good score,” said England captain Moeen Ali.
Their method – building a platform with low-risk shots in the power play, then bidding their time and waiting for the right moment to strike – has won Pakistan many matches, but has also lost a few. It raises the floor, but can lower the ceiling: Pakistan is rarely cheaply thrown out, but their mixed record batting first suggests they have often left runs there. Their battle template is an outlier
in a format characterized by power-hitting.
But on Thursday night chasing a big score helped clear things up. Rizwan started brightly, taking two of the first four balls he encountered for four and David Willey for six, but got two early lives: at 23 he was dropped by a back kicking Alex Hales and at 32 he was beaten while charging Adil Rashid but Phil Salt missed a tough punch opportunity.
Babar was the slower starter, spending his half-century on 39 balls, nine more than Rizwan. They piled up steadily after the power play, but with eight overs to go, the speed requirement had increased to exactly two runs per ball, with Liam Dawson rattling his four overs for just 26 runs.
“We don’t listen to those who snipe from the outside. There will always be criticism, and if you don’t do it right, people are waiting to strike. The fans always support us.”
But the 13th over was the turning point, when Babar sensed the opportunity to take Moeen down and seized it. He has often hit careful against spin in this format, but twice he hit Moeen over midwicket and into the wire fences separating fans from the playing field, doubling the number of sixes he hit against offspin in his T20I career in the process .
After Babar pushed Moeen’s fifth ball over, Rizwan hit the sixth for six. The over had cost 21 runs and the required rate dropped to 10.71. “I really feel like my over has lost the game for us,” Moeen said later. “That was a gamble, I almost tried to buy a wicket, but it obviously didn’t work. Then Pakistan won the match.”
Suddenly, Babar was in control, flinging Sam Curran through his fine leg and even Adil Rashid’s googly crunching over midwicket with a man’s venom proving a point to those who questioned him. After an unusually poor Asian Cup, Babar was back in the box.
At 91, he swung Willey to the deep midwicket, but Curran parried the ball over the rope six times. “Babar, Babar!” the crowd sang as one, before erupting as he shoved Curran into the covers for the single that made him the first man to hit multiple T20I hundreds for Pakistan, just 23 balls after acknowledging applause for his fifty.
At that time, Rizwan played second fiddle, but could not contain his joy. He punched the air as he ran to the keeper’s end for a single, then gave him a hug that was two parts pride and one part relief. Karachi got up to celebrate a masterful turn from Lahore’s favorite son.
Three days earlier, Babar had walked into the press conference room of the National Stadium and was confronted by local media who demanded answers for his poor form and criticized the Pakistani method, which resembles an endurance test unlike the English relay match, where each batter played his shots. and then passed the baton to the next. He returned with the understated confidence of a man who knew he’d silenced a few.
“We don’t listen to those who snipe from the outside,” he said. “There will always be criticism, and if you don’t do it right, people are waiting to strike. The fans are always supporting us. In sport, every day is different and there are ups and downs. The fans are by your side .” The amount of support we have received is excellent, regardless of the performance.”
This was the fifth time Babar and Rizwan have partnered 150 or more. They’ve opened 31 times together in T20Is and the connection they’ve formed is so strong that sometimes they don’t even bother calling each other for runs. “That reflects the level of trust between us,” Babar said.
“We have pursued such large sums in the past,” he added. “We planned to play according to the situation, and planned when to charge and when to hold back. The execution of that plan went brilliantly. When you have a target in front of you, you play according to that and change accordingly. “
Moeen had no choice but to hold up his hands and accept that England had been well beaten. “I know they get a lot of criticism for their strike rates, but I’ve never seen a problem,” he said. “Rizwan got out for a kite and Babar took a little time, but then no one could stop him. They are brilliant players.”
When England last toured this country in 2005, Pakistan had not played a single T20 international; 17 years later, criticizing the short set-up has become a national pastime. Time will tell if this method can win Pakistan a World Cup, but on nights like this it’s hard to believe there’s too much wrong with it.