“It was the National Stadium in Karachi (NSK) that hosted the first Test and how wonderful it was to see a big team contest in white clothes in one of the most iconic venues in world cricket – the venue which remained the fortress for Pakistan for almost 39 years and witnessed legendary clashes. Karachi did not disappoint Pakistan”

 

South Africa toured Pakistan after more than thirteen years. It was way back in 2007 they toured the land of music, friendly people, colourful cities, and unpredictable cricket. They won the Test series back then and also, Pakistan witnessed the legendary Inzamam-ul-Haq retiring from the format in tears. In the following years, Pakistan experienced turbulent times. For ten years, they would not play cricket at home – thankfully, things have started to change.

The teams have started to tour Pakistan again and after the tour of South Africa, one can expect England, New Zealand, and Australia to play in Pakistan.

It was the National Stadium in Karachi (NSK) that hosted the first Test and how wonderful it was to see a big team contest in white clothes in one of the most iconic venues in world cricket – the venue which remained the fortress for Pakistan for almost 39 years and witnessed legendary clashes.

Karachi did not disappoint Pakistan.

The match commenced and the visiting skipper Quinton de Kock elected to bat without hesitation after winning the toss even though in NSK those who chase down totals have experienced better results. But keeping in mind that the track would deteriorate with the progress of time the decision of De Kock is not bad at all.

But the South Africans responded poorly.

The wicket of Day 1 was still good to bat on but they succumbed against the deliveries which did not turn enough –   only one of the 10 wickets that fell was to a ball that turned. Faf du Plessis was the victim against a Yasir Shah delivery, which drifted and turned away as he pushed at it. Otherwise, the rest of the South African batters had been below-par.

A total of 220 was below-par but at the fag end of Day 1 when the South African pacers set jitters in the Pakistan top and middle-order, 220 was looking like a fighting total till the morning session of Day 2. After a testing morning session, Azhar Ali and Fawad Alam started to swell the total, and when stabilization was ensured the allrounders and tail-enders stretched the lead.

The defiant resistance of Fawad Alam was praiseworthy.

In the last 12 years, it had been a rollercoaster ride for Fawad, who was ignored consistently by the selectors despite his impressive showing in the domestic arena. Obviously, there were better options and it is hard to criticize those who had to ignore him.

The reason why Fawad was not chosen because of his unorthodox technique which was perceived as vulnerable and that the presence of a packed middle order in Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Azhar Ali, and Asad Shafiq meant there was no opening.

But Fawad never gave up and that deserves the accolade.

During this 11-year hiatus from international cricket, Fawad made 26 first-class centuries and 33 half-centuries, amassing 7965 runs at 56.48.

He was eventually recalled after 11 years in August 2020, during the tour of England. Six months on, he’s now made a second hundred in the space of three Tests.

Karachi is his happy hunting ground and he lived up to the expectations under pressure.

Fawad was at the risk of being drooped again despite the runs and records. He may have not made the New Zealand tour, but he somehow did.

He made an impact against some hostile fast bowling in the second Test in Mount Maunganui. This hundred against South Africa may have been all the more special, because it came at home, and also because he rescued the side from a precarious 33 for four.

Fawad played the anchor’s role, putting together key partnerships with Azhar Ali (94 off 228 balls), Mohammad Rizwan (55 off 113), and Faheem Ashraf (102 off 152) to overhaul South Africa’s 220 and give Pakistan hope of a sizeable lead and thereby a good chance of victory.

Pakistan took a big lead the response of South Africa was resolved until the spinners broke through. Yasir Shah waved his magic while at the other end an unknown spinner to the world cricket – Nauman Ali ended up bagging a 5-wicket haul on debut as the Proteas lost their way leaving Pakistan only 88 runs to get in the fourth innings.

Pakistan took the lead and while the praises are showering over Fawad, Yasir, and the fielders; well, don’t forget the kind of impression Nauman made cannot be undermined at all.

At the age of 34, a cricketer reaches his peak, but Nauman made his debut, and the way he bowled it seemed that he has been around in Test cricket for ages. Neither he was gripped by the tension of the big occasion nor did he lose his authority over the bowling.

Maintaining a strict line and length is his biggest strength and in Karachi, he was playing the role of a second spinner like Tauseef Ahmed and Iqbal Qasim did to Abdul Qadir during the era of Imran Khan.

Years of hard toil in the domestic arena of Pakistan and the less-chances of getting selected hardly hampered his spirit but in turn, it kept on motivating Nauman, who proved the importance of breaking the sweat in first-class cricket. It is always better to have a performer rather than those over-hyped talents in the Twenty20 Leagues.

He was the leading wicket-taker for Khan Research Laboratories in the 2018–19 Quaid-e-Azam One Day Cup, with seventeen dismissals in nine matches. He was also the leading wicket-taker for Khan Research Laboratories in the 2018–19 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, with 43 dismissals in eight matches. In March 2019, he was named to the Sindh squad for the 2019 Pakistan Cup.

In September 2019, he was named in Northern’s squad for the 2019–20 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy tournament.

He was the leading wicket-taker in the tournament, with 54 dismissals in ten matches.

Coming from a small town Khipro, a subdivision of the Sanghar division in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, Nauman is among a handful of players from the rural areas of the province to get a chance to play for the national team.

“I was hopeful of getting a call-up after bowling well and taking wickets in the last two seasons of first-class cricket,” said Nauman, who became the fourth oldest Test cricketer to debut for Pakistan. Miran Bakhsh (47yeras and 284 days) is the oldest ever Test debutant for Pakistan while Zulfiqar Babar (34years 308 days) and Mohammad Aslam (34 years 177 days) are at the second and third place respectively.

“It has been a long journey. I was born and studied in Khipro but moved to Hyderabad to pursue a career as a professional cricketer with my uncle,” he said.

“My father works in the clerical staff of an oil factory in Hyderabad now.”

“If they show confidence I am ready to deliver anywhere not only in home series.”

Indeed he paid back the faith invested in him.

In the second innings, Aiden Markram was like a wall but Nauman used his height to extract bounce, which took Markram by surprise and the batsman failed to negotiate it and spooned a catch to Abid Ali at silly mid-off.

On Day 4, Temba Bavuma and George Linde tried to dig deep and take a competitive lead, but Nauman well-flighted another one which kissed the edge of Linde, and Imran Butt took the catch at leg slip. Then Nauman spun one through the gate when Kagiso Rabada tried an extravagant cover-drive and completed his five-for when he trapped Bavuma in front, the sweep for once failing him.

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The smile on the face of Nauman said it all – the hard work over the years has paid off and the kind of determination he has shown in Karachi, Pakistan should use it smartly in the coming days.

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