Babar Azam's Top 3 ODI Knocks

image-lqgik3qkBabar celebrating a milestone. (PCB)

Talismanic Pakistani batter Babar Azam requires no formal introduction, having held the title of the best player in the ODI format for the past three years. Recently reclaiming the top spot after a brief hiatus, Babar's dominance in the rankings has persisted for over two years.

When one witnesses Babar Azam bat, the descriptors that come to mind are class, elegance, and sheer splendour. Currently, Babar stands unquestionably among the finest players in ODI cricket. 

Yet, during his initial year and a half on the international stage, signs of promise rather than concrete evidence of a world-class player were apparent. Across his first 15 ODIs, he maintained an average of 37.57, with five half-centuries. A transformative moment occurred on the final day of September in 2016 when he notched up his maiden international century, the floodgates opened. In his next two innings against the West Indies, he notched two more centuries, becoming the first player ever to achieve three consecutive ODI centuries.

Beyond the numerical achievements, Babar Azam boasts numerous records in his illustrious career. He holds the title of the fastest cricketer to reach 5,000 ODI runs and the fastest to 2,000 runs as captain. Additionally, he possesses the third-best batting average in ODI history and was crowned the ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year in both 2021 and 2022.

With a career trajectory heading towards all-time greatness, Babar is destined to conclude as one of Pakistan's most accomplished batters in history and solidify his status as one of the top ODI batsmen of all time. 

In this listicle, we look at Babar's three most remarkable innings in ODI cricket.

158 vs England (2021)

image-lqgieunkBabar's top ODI knock came against England (AP)

Having already lost the series, Pakistan had to play for pride in the third ODI against England. Babar, batting at number 3 in the first innings, started cautiously, taking 15 deliveries to open his account. However, once he found his rhythm, there was no stopping him. After facing early dismissals in the previous matches at Cardiff and Lord's, Babar seized the opportunity to lead Pakistan's resurgence.

The Pakistan captain initiated his innings with a boundary, taking 72 balls to reach his half-century. Subsequently, he shifted gears, unleashing an array of boundaries and sixes against England's inexperienced bowling attack. Babar swiftly progressed to his 14th ODI century within the next 31 balls.

Even during phases where boundaries were scarce, Babar exhibited precision in finding the gaps and cleverly converting easy singles into tight twos. This constant scoring kept the scoreboard ticking and applied pressure on England. His exceptional innings saw him reach a milestone, achieving his maiden 150 in ODIs. Ultimately, he was dismissed for a remarkable 158 off 139 balls, featuring 14 fours and four sixes.

Despite Pakistan's strong performance, England emerged victorious in the match, thanks to Lewis Gregory's impressive 77 and James Vince's maiden hundred. The home team secured a three-wicket win, showcasing their resilience in the face of a challenging target set by Babar Azam and his team.

103 vs South Africa (2021)

image-lqgig7onThis was Babar's first hundred in South Africa (AP)

Two years after playing his first ODI in South Africa, Babar returned to the rainbow nation for a three-match ODI series. This time with more responsibility as the captain of the team, his hunger for big runs was even more evident as he achieved his first international century against South Africa in Centurion. In the pursuit of South Africa's target of 274, Pakistan suffered an early setback with the loss of opener Fakhar Zaman. Babar, coming in at number three, took on the responsibility of steering the team to victory.

Babar methodically constructed his innings, ultimately reaching his 13th ODI century and guiding Pakistan to a crucial victory, securing a series lead. Remarkably, this century marked his 76th innings, making him the fastest batter to achieve this milestone.

His score of 103 runs off 104 balls, adorned with 17 boundaries, played a pivotal role in Pakistan's triumph in a closely contested match. Babar's exceptional efforts were instrumental in Pakistan's success in the first ODI against South Africa.

This achievement not only established Babar as the quickest batter to reach 13 ODI hundreds in just 76 innings but also surpassed the records set by renowned batsmen like Hashim Amla (83 innings) and Virat Kohli (86 innings). Furthermore, Babar etched his name in history as the first Pakistan captain to score two centuries while chasing a target, showcasing his exceptional leadership and batting prowess on the international stage.

101* vs New Zealand (2019)

image-lqgiha63Babar scored his maiden World Cup ton against New Zealand. (ICC)

Having already played a couple of crucial innings in the 2019 World Cup, the spotlight was on Babar to convert his starts into substantial scores. This opportunity presented itself against the eventual runners-up, New Zealand. Babar emerged as the standout performer, crafting a composed innings of 101 runs off 127 balls in front of an enthusiastic crowd in Birmingham. Pakistan successfully chased down New Zealand's total of 237 for six in the final over.

Chasing a modest target, Fakhar Zaman fell to Trent Boult after contributing just 9 runs. Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam adopted a positive approach, guiding Pakistan to 43/1 at the end of the initial 10 overs.

The team faced a precarious situation at 110-3 when Mohammad Hafeez was dismissed for 32 in the 25th over. However, the 24-year-old Babar anchored the innings, receiving valuable support from Haris Sohail, who compiled a noteworthy 68. Babar remained composed and achieved his century off 124 balls, marking his first century of the World Cup.

During his innings, Babar accomplished the milestone of becoming the second-fastest to reach 3,000 ODI runs in 68 innings. While Babar took 11 innings more than South Africa's Hashim Amla, he surpassed the record of West Indies great Viv Richards, who achieved the feat in 69 innings. Babar's remarkable innings not only secured victory for Pakistan against New Zealand but also proved why he's touted as the next 'Big thing' in Pakistan.

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