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From one Bobby to another: Grandstand performances dot the week

Pakistan captain Babar Azam came up with a brilliant rearguard against the Australians



Australia's cricketers applaud as Pakistan's captain Babar Azam walks back to the pavillon after a brilliant innings at the National Cricket Stadium in Karachi — AFP
Australia's cricketers applaud as Pakistan's captain Babar Azam walks back to the pavillon after a brilliant innings at the National Cricket Stadium in Karachi — AFP
by

James Jose

Published: Thu 17 Mar 2022, 11:55 PM

Last updated: Thu 17 Mar 2022, 11:56 PM

This week has been about grandstand performances in sport. Right from Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne’s dogged defiance in a losing cause against India in the second Test, which witnessed the sporting M Chinnaswamy Stadium crowd up on their feet and applauding the knock, to Roberto Firmino slinking in the second goal against Arsenal before wheeling away in celebrations and into the arms of the Liverpool faithful at a soggy Emirates Stadium. But in between those two occurrences thousands of miles apart and prior to ‘Bobby’ Firmino’s slick finish, another ‘Bobby’ created magic which was one for the ages.

Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne celebrates acknowledges the crowd after scoring a century against India in Bengaluru. — PTI
Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne celebrates acknowledges the crowd after scoring a century against India in Bengaluru. — PTI

After the runathon that was Rawalpindi, the mighty Australians sniffed at a win, in their first tour of Pakistan in 24 years, after setting Pakistan an improbable 506 to get in five sessions in Karachi. But then, Azam happened. The 27-year-old conjured a batting masterclass to knock the sense of smell out from the Aussies’ nostrils. Azam’s heroic 196, helmed over 10 hours and seven minutes, from 426 deliveries, not just smashed a flurry of records along the way but also kept the visitors at bay. To truly appreciate Azam’s brilliant knock, one had to look back to the shaky start Pakistan had to the chase when they were precariously placed at 21 for two just after lunch on the penultimate day. To grab a Test from thereon by the scruff of its neck, was nothing short of epic. Opener Abdullah Shafique and later Mohammad Rizwan’s 96 and 104 not out too played their part in equal measure, and so did Nauman Ali’s 0 off 18 balls which was perhaps worthy a hundred runs. But Azam’s dream innings was the centrepiece to Pakistan pulling off a sensational draw.

Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates with fans after scoring the second goal against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in London on Wednesday. — AFP
Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates with fans after scoring the second goal against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in London on Wednesday. — AFP

In fact, truth be told, Pakistan fans in the stands, as well as those watching on their telly, would have slowly started dreaming of Pakistan chasing the mammoth target down. If not for Azam getting out heading into the final hour, Pakistan would have made a fist of it. In the end, they were 63 runs short.

Talking of grandstand performances, this was one, one which even the Australians doffed their hats to, as a dejected Azam trundled back to the pavilion. Sadly, it wasn’t to a grandstand finish.

Two days before the Test, Azam had tweeted two pictures of his bats with the caption that read: “My wands from @graynics. The best in the business.”

Following a century drought that had lasted two years, ‘Bobby’ is back in business and how!


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