Pakistan captain Babar Azam answered his critics on the first day of the First Test against New Zealand in Karachi.
He made an unbeaten 161, and in the process broke several long-standing records for runs made in a calendar year.
It was a fine riposte after having led the side that was whitewashed by England in their recent three-match series.
That defeat effectively ended any residual hope that Pakistan still had of making the WTC (World Test Championship) Final at the Oval in June, with India now looking the most likely to contest it against Australia.
Even victory in the series against New Zealand is likely to be too little too late.
The home side came into this series after that reverse against Ben Stokes’ side, who became the first in history to achieve a clean sweep in Pakistan of a test series involving three or more matches.
In the aftermath, Ramiz Raja was removed as chairman of the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) and the selection panel was also changed (the same happened in India after their World Cup semi-final exit).
Babar himself, was not immune from criticism, both for his leadership, and also for the fact that he had endured a poor series with the bat against the English.
Therefore, when he came out to bat in Karachi, he felt that he had a point to prove.
Pakistan make poor start
The circumstances, though, were not the best when he arrived at the crease, with his side already three down, and just 48 runs on the board.
Saud Shakeel did look to provide some resistance and added 62 with his skipper for the fourth wicket. But, when he departed for 22, there was still a lot of work to do for Pakistan if they wanted to post a competitive score.
Fortunately, Babar was in the sort of form that made him the number three-ranked batter in all forms of cricket earlier this year.
Assisted by Sarfaraz Ahmed, who was making his first test appearance for almost four years, he put on 190 for the fifth wicket, before Ahmed was out for 86. Babar, though, continued to bat, and, by the close of play, he was undefeated on 161.
In reaching his half century, Babar passed the previous record for 50s scored in international play in a calendar year. That had previously been set by former Australian captain Ricky Ponting who made 24 in 2005. Babar now has 25 to his name in 2022.
His tally is comprised of eight centuries and 17 fifties.
And his eight tons since January also took him past the records for scores of three figures in international cricket in a calendar year, beating the previous record of seven by a captain jointly held by Brian Lara, Steve Smith of Australia, Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka, and South Africa’s Graeme Smith Behind
Babar is now third on the all-time list (behind Ponting and Virat Kohli).
He is also the highest Test run scorer in 2022, whilst his overall haul of 2,542 runs in international cricket is a new Pakistan record (beating the previous benchmark set by Mohammad Yousuf, former player, and now batting coach to the Pakistani team.
Kohli, though, continues to hold the record for the most centuries scored in a single year by an international captain, having notched up ten in 2017. Four of those tons came in test cricket, and the remaining six in ODIs.
In terms of career centuries, Kohli is second on the all-time list, one ahead of Ponting, having made 72 to date.
However, out on his own, with a record that may never be broken, is Sachin Tendulkar, who finished his career with exactly 100 hundreds to his name in international cricket.
He could not add to his score
Sadly, for Babar, he could not extend his records even further on the second morning of the match. He was dismissed without adding to his overnight score, caught off the bowling of New Zealand’s new test captain Tim Southee.
However, with Salman Agha also scoring a century, Pakistan were able to take their score past 400, something they were never able to achieve against England, before they were finally all out for 438.
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