Hasan Ali dazzled at Lord’s to leave England reeling…..
When India falters, Dhoni rescues them. It’s the norm. It’s what is considered granted. However, on the fateful evening of June 18, 2017, Dhoni was cramped for room, bounced out, with his side virtually screaming for help at him. What made it worse was the opposition was Pakistan, no less. As Dhoni exited The Oval, the lanky teenager went down and back up and spread his arms to the heavens in joy. Hasan Ali had arrived, and not on a rickshaw, on a carriage decorated in flowers. Oh, and he had wings! A perfect mix of beast and angel.
The implode-explode celebration of Hasan Ali had hogged the Champions Trophy in England. With Lord’s given a miss in the list of venues, the Pakistani seamer set about showcasing his skillsets elsewhere. Almost a year later, adorned in whites, the angel in beast mode took to the field at the Mecca of cricket, sabotaging England’s dreams with some high quality bowling in a team where he was always the third pacer.
"We like this Hasan Ali, he bowled very well in the Champions Trophy and he's got tricks and energy" @philtufnell
— Test Match Special (@bbctms) May 24, 2018
The pre-Test build-up surrounded Mohammad Amir and his new-found destructive partner, Mohammad Abbas. The duo were chalk and cheese but fit snugly into Pakistan’s schemes of exploiting England’s Ashes-shaken top-order. Then there was the exciting Shadab Khan, a spinner who has all but made Pakistan fans forget a certain Yasir Shah. Faheem Ashraf, perhaps the least spoken of Pakistan players, was discussed more than Hasan Ali.
He seemed non-existent until a shabby, wide ball from him, swinging away from the England captain in the first session of day 1 caught the edge of the bat and rested in the mitts of Sarfraz Ahmed. Out came the implode-explode celebration and Hasan Ali had arrived again, this time in whites.
He has played all of two Tests to date, both in dusty, unhelpful conditions. The only reason for Pakistan to choose him ahead of Rahat Ali, who could have donned the role of a second Mitchell Starc in this Pakistan team, was that Hasan had that zip around him, one which defined them as a team. Pakistan knew that even if the team went down like a pack of cards, Hasan would give it his all to reduce the margin of defeat.
On day 1 at Lord’s, he seemed intent to do much more. With Amir’s opening spells slightly off target in terms of energy, Hasan cranked up the pace gun, found swing and seam movement to hustle up England batsmen. What set him apart from a meticulous, tidy Abbas was that he kept the batsmen guessing. Off his third ball, he had bounced Root, generating disconcerting height to smack the skipper on the gloves. The impact perhaps played its part in tempting Root to chase a wide one from Hasan later on.
A tough morning for the boys.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) May 24, 2018
He returned an over later to generate extra pace and bounce and angle one across Dawid Malan, perhaps the sole batsman with a face after the disastrous tours of Australia and New Zealand. The left-hander had to play at the delivery, but it zipped through at pace to catch the edge.
Two balls later, he nearly had the big fish, Johnny Bairstow, jagging the ball back into him off the seam. A dangerous leave almost sent back the England wicket-keeper as Hasan went from third pacer to acting spearhead in no time. That, right there, was exactly why Hasan was preferred over someone like Rahat Ali.
Since his ODI debut in 2016, Hasan has taken 62 wickets in 30 matches, the third most in the World. But to understand his importance to Pakistan it is quintessential to conduct a peer review. The next best Pakistan bowler in the list is Mohammad Amir with 27! Not even half the number of wickets Hasan Ali has in this time frame.
A wonderful catch – Pakistan are on a roll.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) May 24, 2018
An ODI record could be completely irrelevant here. We are doing apples versus oranges, but the point here is how Hasan likes to take charge. He has never been their first option and will probably never ever be. But in his own uncanny, queer manner Hasan can make an impact and at Lord’s he showed just how, just another time, this with a red ball in hand.
Heroic tales do not end with two wickets and Hasan’s didn’t either. He dismissed Jos Buttler, whose positive mindset was supposed to act as a catalyst to England’s lower middle-order, and Mark Wood to push the hosts into an unexpected chasm.
With each ball, each spell, he spelt doom. When he charged in, England batsmen knew there wasn’t a freebie coming their way. He is just two Tests and an innings old, but the World is there for him to conquer. His wide open arms celebrating each wicket isn’t there to embrace the World. It’s there to take seige and snatch. Hasan Ali has arrived, this time at the Mecca, armed with a ball whose colour has created legends.