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“The match fulfilled Pakistan’s quest for filtering the talents for near and mid-term future and both, Abid and Rizwan, will be the players to watch out for and when they get the opportunity”

Can you ask for a better start to your international career than a century in your debut innings? Surely not, and Abid Ali knows this better than anyone else at the moment. He struck a brilliant 112 against a very potent Australian bowling attack to give his team a real chance of scoring their first victory in the ongoing 5-match bilateral ODI series against Australia.

Then there was also a certain Mohammad Rizwan who, prior to this ODI series, has always remained on the fringes with only one or two moments of brilliance in his 24-inning career before the start of this series. Rizwan played the role of the aggressor quite perfectly in the solid 144-run partnership for the third wicket with the debutant Ali which was the reason why Pakistan could go so close to Australia’s first inning score of 277 runs.

Also read: Pakistan failing to deliver on their own tactics

Experimentation has many facets attached to it. It can be a method to manage the workload of your key players as it is important to have them fresh for the marquee events like the World Cup. At the same time, it also gives an opportunity to the ‘fringe-talent’ to showcase their potentials at the highest annals of the cricketing world. Both, Abid Ali and Mohammad Rizwan, can be grouped into the luscious category of fruits obtained for Pakistan after this labour of experimentation in the scorching heat of the middle-eastern deserts.

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For Abid, it was quite a surprising call as he was drafted into the playing XI merely two hours before the scheduled start of the match, as a replacement for Imam-Ul-Haq who was down with a fever. Pakistan didn’t have the best of the starts as opener Shan Masood departed for a duck on the fifth ball of the first over bowled by Nathan Coulter-Nile. A decent run-chase and a high-octane bowling line-up, Abid suddenly found himself under the pump right at the stroke of the beginning of his international career.

He has been a late-bloomer for Pakistan as he will be turning 32 in the coming October this year but it is very much possible that this very late-bloomer tag had helped him cope the difficult situation upfront as he would have been in such situations for a countless number of times in his domestic career. He showed remarkable composure and class as he stitched-up important partnerships first, with Harris Sohail for 74 runs and then, with Rizwan for 144 runs.

It takes great strength and character to play as the situation demands because individual glory can’t always help a team’s cause and Abid displayed through his knock that he had already ingrained that important lesson of success deep inside his game during his hard-grind at the domestic levels.  A moment came during the Pakistani run-chase when, in the 17th over, a well-set Sohail went for a glory shot against Nathan Lyon but could only manage a soft catch to Glenn Maxwell at cover.

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After that against the run-of-play dismissal, Abid needed someone who can score while being solid at the crease and he got the perfect ally in Rizwan for the job. Rizwan initially took a little time to get his eye in and when skipper Aaron Finch decided to sneak-in an over, he took the attack to the opposition captain by sending him for two fours and six which kick-started his charge over the Aussie bowlers.

There was no looking back after that 20th over as Rizwan continued to strike at almost run-a-ball while Abid played the role of the anchor perfectly. The sailing went smooth for the duo and the Pakistani team until Adam Zampa decided to gate-crash the party on what was the last ball of his ten-over spell. Pakistan were comfortably placed at 218 for 2 wickets, needing another 60 runs from the last 54 deliveries, when Abid’s attempted slog-sweep against Zampa didn’t come off and he ended up holing out to Finch at the long-on boundary, but not after he had brought his team in the touching distance of the victory.

The onus shifted onto the shoulders of Rizwan to take his side across the finishing line and the youngster gave his all as he notched up his second ODI ton at the start of the 49th over. Fate always plays some treacherous games when we least expect them to kick in. That’s exactly what transpired in the game as Pakistan botched up the chase with a combination of poor batting and brilliant opposition bowling. The final nail in the coffin came in the last over when Rizwan’s attempted slog off the bowling of Marcus Stoinis went straight into the bucket hands of Peter Handscomb at mid-wicket.

Both the centurions failed to finish the game for their team as Pakistan fell agonizingly short by just 6 runs from the Aussie total of 277 runs. Perhaps the lack of experience at the international level was the cause behind the failure but that will come around with time. More importantly, the match fulfilled Pakistan’s quest for filtering the talents for near and mid-term future and both, Abid and Rizwan, will be the players to watch out for and when they get the opportunity.

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