LONDON: ODI captain 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. 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,” he 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.”
England coach Chris Silverwood said: “We know we’re up against a very good batsman.”
Pakistan were 43/2 when Babar came in after captain Azhar Ali, who had won the toss, fell lbw 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.
The 25-year-old Babar has a fine career Test average of 45.12 from 26 matches heading into the first of a three-match campaign against England. But his figures during the past two years suggest he is approaching the prime of his career.
Babar’s five Test hundreds have all come since the start of 2018, during which time he has scored 1,375 runs in 15 matches at a hugely impressive average of 65.47.
Babar is top of the global Twenty20 batting rankings, third in the one-day standings and sixth in the Test list.
Azhar Ali asked if the England series would see Babar join Australia’s Steve Smith and India’s Virat Kohli in the top bracket of Test batsmen, told British media: “I think he is right up there already.
“People are thinking and talking about it. He is just hungry for runs and I think if he keeps doing that he will be up there for quite a long time.
“His performances have improved massively in Test matches over the last year or so. Firstly, he was performing really well in white-ball cricket and people thought he was only a white-ball player but he took on that challenge and played with a lot of freedom and flair.”