Pakistan’s Babar Azam was compared to India’s Virat Kohli as one of the world’s leading batsmen after his unbeaten fifty on the opening day of the first Test against England on Wednesday.
When bad light forced an early close at Old Trafford, Pakistan were 139-2, with Babar 69 not out and Shan Masood unbeaten on 46.
Left-handed opener Masood was twice missed on 45 by England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler either side of a lengthy rain break, with off-spinner Dom Bess the unlucky bowler on both occasions.
The prolific Babar has now reached a half-century in five successive Test innings, with his previous five matches yielding four hundreds.
“If this lad was Virat Kohli, everyone would be talking about it, but because it is Babar Azam, no one is talking about it,” said former England captain Nasser Hussain while commentating for Sky Sports.
“He’s young, he’s elegant, he’s got all the swagger,” Hussain added.
“They keep going on about the ‘Fab Four’ [Kohli, Australia’s Steve Smith, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and England captain Joe Root] — it’s the ‘Fab Five,’ and Babar Azam is in that,” he said.
“We know we’re up against a very good batsman,” England coach Chris Silverwood said.
Pakistan were 43-2 when Babar came in after captain Azhar Ali, who had won the toss, fell leg before wicket for a duck to Chris Woakes.
Babar started cautiously, but after lunch he unfurled an array of stylish attacking shots en route to a 70-ball fifty featuring nine fours.
He struck express paceman Jofra Archer down the ground before driving Bess for another boundary to bring up Pakistan’s hundred.
Bess should have removed Masood for 45 when he took the left-hander’s outside edge, but Buttler dropped the chance.
When play resumed in the early evening after a long rain delay, Root was soon bowling his occasional off-breaks in tandem with Bess to try and keep the match going under grey skies after Archer had pitched short to Babar.
Even with two spinners bowling and the floodlights on, the umpires still called a halt at 6:12pm before the ground was bathed in sunshine soon afterwards.
There was still time for Buttler to miss stumping Masood after the batsman charged down the pitch.
The mistakes will revive discussion about the wicketkeeper’s place in the side with Ben Foakes, arguably a superior gloveman, waiting in the wings.
“The game is pretty funny ... you get an element of fortune every now and then,” Masood said.
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