Babar Azam played one of the greatest and most memorable match-saving innings in the history of Test cricket as Pakistan held Australia to an impressive and respectable draw in the second Test for the Benaud-Qadir Trophy at the National Stadium on Wednesday.
Babar scored an epic 196 off 425 balls in 10 hours and seven minutes of eye-catching batting as Pakistan finished at 443 for seven after resuming at 192 for two after being set an impossible 506-run target.
Babar’s career-best innings contained 21 fours and a six and it was the highest fourth innings score by a Test captain, and what a great occasion and time it was to bring this up as it will undoubtedly strengthen his status as one of the finest and most technically correct batters of this generation.
There were some hiccups and nervous moments after Babar Azam departed as Faheem Ashraf lasted just one ball and Sajid Khan survived 10 deliveries as Pakistan slipped from 392 for four to 414 for seven with 48 balls in the Test remaining.
However, wicketkeeper-batter Mohammad Rizwan showed nerves of steel when he took control and ensured Pakistan kept its chances of winning the Test series alive. Both the sides will now travel to Lahore for the winner takes all third Test, which will commence on 21 March.
Rizwan struck 11 fours and a six, batted for 238 minutes and faced 117 deliveries for his 104 not out. This was his second century in 21 Tests.
When the match ended, Nauman Ali was the other not out batter who successfully negotiated 18 balls.
Rizwan was also involved in a 115-run fifth-wicket partnership with Babar after Fawad Alam failed for the second time in the match by managing only nine from 27 balls.
While Babar missed a maiden double-century by four runs, opener Abdullah Shafique was unlucky to score his second century in successive Tests when he was caught by Steve Smith of Pat Cummins.
Abdullah, who resumed this morning at 71 not out, showed a lot of grit and fighting abilities in his 96 that came off 305 balls after 468 minutes of batting during which he hit six fours and a six.
Abdullah and Babar had got together during second session’s play on the fourth day and were separated just before lunch on the final morning when Abdullah made a rare error by trying to driving a wide delivery.
Abdullah put on 228 runs with Babar for the third wicket that gave Pakistan a realistic chance of escaping with the draw.
Against a world-class Australia attack on a fifth day pitch, Pakistan needed to show a lot of resilience and play with authority, confidence and courage, and this is exactly what they displayed as Babar and Abdullah, and Rizwan later, showed textbook temperament and shot-selection to frustrate the visitors.
The three batters also scored at a decent pace and there was a time when it appeared Pakistan may just go for the kill and chase down the 506-run target. However, Babar’s departure that soon followed by the demise of Faheem and Sajid meant Pakistan pulled the shutters down and went for a draw.
While Pakistan will now arriving in Lahore oozing with confidence, Australia, despite dominate most part of the Test, will be wondering how to grab 20 wickets to win the Test. Apart from their bowling, their fielding remained below-par as they dropped crucial catches to let Pakistan off the hook!
Babar Azam | Player of the Match: The plan was to bat session-by-session and build partnerships. It was a team effort, as others (Shafique and Rizwan) chipped in with useful contributions too. We took the onus and the main focus was to build partnerships right throughout the day.
Rizwan was outstanding as he saved the Test for us eventually. We wanted to continue to bat in the same way (after the tea break) and we tried to be positive and play our shots. The team needed this knock, so I tried to bat for as long as I could.
Pat Cummins | Australia captain: I think so, I think we had enough overs, it was a pretty good wicket even on day 4 and day 5. We created a few chances, but we failed to grab them. Mitch Swepson was fantastic on debut, his figures don’t do justice to the way he bowled. Nathan was impressive towards the end, as he always does on day 5.
For an Australian team to bat over two days at the start of a Test match, I don’t think we’ve done that for a long time. Lots of positives from this match and so far in the series. The way we batted was fantastic, the way we hunted and took those wickets on day 3 with reverse swing, that was brilliant as well. And we were always ahead in the game, so really proud of the boys.
Mohammad Rizwan: It wasn’t an easy task to bat for five sessions to save a Test against a team like Australia, we all know how good a bowling attack they have. We had a plan to go for the chase when I and Babar were batting, but the ball was pretty old, so it was pretty tough to score quick runs against the old ball.
We had a simple plan, we needed to play session by session. Definitely there was pressure towards the closing stages, but I tried to keep my calm. What can I say, Babar is the number 1 player in the world, no doubt about that. Everyone knows it. Batting for two days to save a Test match is not that easy, that too against a quality side like Australia.