Five most explosive knocks of Babar Azam in T20 cricket
Babar Azam in action [Source: Twitter]
Gutsy, elegant, a craftsman with the bat; we almost run out of adjectives while listing the cricketing attributes of Babar Azam. Hailed as one of the most stylish batters ever to grace the game, Babar's rise to the top has been nothing short of exceptional.
Since debuting in 2016, Babar has gradually established himself as an integral part of the Pakistani batting lineup. His exponential growth as a batter rewarded him with the national team's captaincy, which he has nailed to perfection so far.
However, despite being incredibly consistent with the bat, Babar's strike rate in T20Is has often been scrutinised by fans as well as experts. Even some people don't mind tagging him as a 'poor T20I batter', which I think is blasphemous.
So, on Babar's 28th birthday, we will throw light on some of his blistering knocks, which speak volumes for his versatility as a T20 batter.
5. 85 (49) vs England, Nottingham, 2021
This was the first game of the three-match T20I series between the two teams. Inviting Pakistan to bat first on a good batting deck backfired on England, as Babar Azam came out with all guns blazing at their bowlers.
His magnificent 85-run knock, glittered with eight gorgeous fours and three maxima, came in only 49 deliveries. England had a potent bowling unit comprising David Willey, Saqib Mahmood, Tom Curran and Matt Parkinson. But none could trouble the Pakistani captain, as he took all of them to the cleaners. His brilliant knock propelled Pakistan to a mammoth 232, which they defended successfully to win the match by 31 runs.
4. 86 (52) vs ICC World XI, Lahore, 2017
The opposition didn't precisely have a formidable bowling lineup in this match. However, what makes this knock unique is it was the first time the world was introduced to the amazing batsmanship of Babar Azam in T20Is.
After being invited to bat first, Pakistan got off to a disastrous start, losing Fakhar Zaman early. However, a young Babar Azam joined Ahmed Shehzad to steady the ship for Pakistan. His excellent 86-run knock, which came in only 52 deliveries, powered Pakistan to 197. The hosts won the match eventually by 20 runs, and Babar was awarded the man of the match for his stunning inning.
3. 122 (59) vs South Africa, Centurion, 2021
Chasing a massive target of 204 runs is a daunting task for any batting unit in the world. However, when Babar Azam stepped into the field that day, he was determined to script history.
Bowlers were driven, cut and pulled to all parts of the iconic Supersport park as the stalwart stormed his way through to a memorable 122 off just 59 balls. The chase, which seemed impossible a while ago, was completed with two overs and nine wickets to spare. Babar was declared the player of the match for his fireworks.
2. 97* (58) vs West Indies, Karachi, 2018
This was the second game of the three-match series between the two teams. After opting to bat first, Pakistan got an undesirable start, losing swashbuckling opener Fakhar Zaman for just six runs to Rayad Emrit. However, the happiness proved short-lived for the Men in Maroon, as Babar Azam stepped up for the sake of Pakistan yet again.
His unbeaten knock of 97 was studded with thirteen glorious fours and one six. His match-winning 119-run stand with Hussain Talat allowed Pakistan to post 205 runs on the board, which they defended easily later to seal the series.
1. 110* (66) vs England, Karachi, 2022
Even Babar would consider this knock his finest in T20I cricket. The reason to keep this inning at the top is pretty straightforward. Babar had just come off a poor Asia Cup campaign, and with fans and media calling for his axing, he was truly down and out. So it needed him a knock for the ages to silence his critics, and he executed that wonderfully.
Batting first, England set a massive target of 200 runs for Pakistan to win the match. Given how Babar responded to the challenge showed why the entire world admires him as a T20 batter. He initially took a bit of time to get his eyes in and then hammered the English bowlers all around the park to slam a scintillating 66-ball 110*, with the help of eleven fours and five gigantic sixes.
It seemed like he had a point to prove. The beast inside the soft-spoken individual unleashed and mauled England in the most brutal fashion.
When people criticise Babar for his strike rate, they simply forget he has the burden of carrying the Pakistani batting on his shoulders, as their middle order has been mediocre recently. Every player bats as per the situation, and Pakistan should be indebted to Babar Azam for how he has carried their batting over the years.