One doesn’t need to speak about the pressure a cricketer goes through on his debut. All his hard work, sacrifices, commitment and dedication have yielded fruitful results when he gets a national call. And from there on, it’s a roller coaster ride. He is under pressure to embrace international cricket on a high and leave a mark. He had to grind through the grass root level and chisel his path to the side and the feeling of playing for a country is certainly the best thing ever for most of them.
When Pakistan drafted a potent and promising young talent Imam-ul-Haq into the squad for the series against Sri Lanka, a few eyebrows were raised on his selection. Imam is the nephew of Pakistan legend and the current chairman of selectors Inzamam-ul-Haq, which in a way raised thoughts about his selection. But the southpaw silent his harshest critics with a bang. He scored a tenacious ton on debut and became the only Pakistani cricketer to have done so since 1995.
Imam-ul-Haq is the latest in a long line of graduates from the #U19CWC to make his mark in full internationals! #FutureStars pic.twitter.com/MY30uX2W2V
— ICC (@ICC) October 19, 2017
It’s a huge milestone to achieve on the very first game and Imam has certainly raised the bar with an emphatic knock on Wednesday. No words can express the joy of scoring a century on debut.
Imam proved why he is among the top talents in the domestic circuit. He spoke about his relationship with Inzamam and was quoted in a report by Cricbuzz saying, “It’s not my fault that I am his nephew. I can’t help that. I am not answerable to that. The best I can do is to answer with my bat. I will have failures and every player has that failure.”
Pakistan bowlers did a fantastic job in restricting Sri Lanka to 208 in the first innings. Hasan Ali’s fifer derailed Sri Lanka to a modest total and was equally supported by other bowlers. Fakhar Zaman had a new opening partner at the top as the misfiring Ahmed Shehzad was dropped for the third encounter. The target didn’t demand any kind of hurry and the openers did well in getting the team off to a steady start.
Imam-ul-Haq making his ODI debut today. @MHafeez22 presented him his ODI Cap ahead of the match. Imam is 215th ODI player of Pakistan pic.twitter.com/ut9kRc2WFY
— PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) October 18, 2017
Imam was replacing Shehzad and had to justify his selection with some impactful performance. And there wouldn’t have been a better script written for Imam to embrace international cricket. Although Pakistani bowlers provided a cushion, but it still demanded 209 runs.
Zaman is known for his aggressive instincts at the top and Imam didn’t fall behind. He matched stroke to stroke and looked to attack when the pressure was building. He did get an outside edge in the third over while flashing hard at a full and wide delivery, but that ball was there to be hit.
Running between the wickets has become one of the key ingredients to success in shorter formats. The likes of MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, David Warner, Steven Smith and others are known for their speed and alertness between the wickets. Imam ran extremely well on his debut and sneaked singles as well as converted the ones into twos. He definitely gave an impression of being a good runner between the wickets.
When Imam reached the 50-run mark, he became the 12 Pakistani batsman to have reached the landmark on debut. One of the best things about his batting was his hunger to collect more runs and stay at the crease. He didn’t throw it away after a solid 60 or 70. He played his shots but looked hungry for runs as well. Many batsmen fail to convert solid starts into big scores, but Imam did well to make his chances count and convert.
Being an opening batsman, Imam was equally effective against spin, which is fantastic for a top-order batsman. He used the depth of the crease well and got to the pitch of the ball often to garner runs against the spinners. Imam played to a plan and looked composed out in the middle. He got a reprieve on 89, when he gloved one to the keeper, but wasn’t cupped cleanly. He placed his innings sensibly, although there were a couple of hiccups, but those can be overlooked for a debutant.
A batsman very often gets nervous and throws it away in the 90s. But, Imam played an inspiring stroke off Thisara Perera over long-on for a boundary while batting on 91. And then came the incredible moment when he pulled one short delivery for a single to bring up his maiden ton.
Imam sculpted a spot in the Pakistani side riding on some prolific performances in the domestic circuit and made an immediate impact at the international arena as well. It will be interesting to see if he can be consistent at the top and get solid starts like he did on his debut. Zaman has been a valuable find for Pakistan at the top and Imam’s success on debut has only made the ambience competitive at the top. Pakistan have already sealed the five-match series with three back to back solid performances and have a golden chance to register a whitewash.