“The return of Hasan Ali should be a huge boost for Pakistan and one can expect this brilliant comeback to bore fruits for Pakistan and world cricket. The Pakistani pacers are always mercurial and world cricket needs more such bowlers”

 

It can be said that Pakistan are still searching for another Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Shoaib Akhtar. In the mid and late 2000; Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir raised the expectations high only to dash them forever and since then a lot of pacers came and faded, but one thing never faded and which was the ability to produce one outstanding spell and turn the fate of the match upside down.

Umar Gul, Junaid Khan, Aizaz Cheema, Mohammad Sami, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Shabbir Rahman, or Shahid Nazir – all possessed the history of game-changing spells and still today, among the current crop of Pakistani pacers, that charisma exists and Hasan Ali is no different.

Aiden Markram and Temba Bavuma posed a serious threat on the final day and both of them were well poised to pull off another dramatic chase like Brisbane and Chattogram.

Markram scored his fifth Test century – his first since March 2018 as well as the first in the subcontinent – as the determined and fluent opener and composed Bavuma, who scored 61, shared a fourth-wicket stand of 106 runs.

The Pakistani pacers were making the old ball talk and exploit the conditions, but such was the authority and confidence of Markram and Bavuma – that they were able to use their defend and footwork very well. The bounce of the wicket was lowish, still, their focus did not deter.

Shaheen Shah Afridi dished out yorkers, but well negotiated by Markram while took Yasir Shah comfortably.

Pakistan took the new ball and Hasan Ali came to use the fresh cherry on a lowish deck.

Ali just dropped one on a length outside the offstump – in and around the third and fourth stump – Markram poked at it and the ball kissed his edge, flew towards the slip, and fell into the safe hands of Imran Butt. Markram was disgusted with the dismissal, but if he rethinks about that particular delivery, he would agree, it was a smart delivery that outsmarted his confidence – Ali forced him to poke and the Pakistan slip did not disappoint him.

Quinton de Kock was fed with a delivery that pitched full and outside offstump and tempted de Kock for the drive. Kock executed one with hard hands and Imran Butt hooked another fish. That dismissal meant that Bavuma and the lower-order batsmen were left with 129 runs to get. That became far too much when Bavuma played at Afridi outside off and was caught behind.

Afridi reaped rewards for his disciplined bowling in the off-stump channel and got the wickets of Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada later on, to go with the scalp of Dean Elgar on the fourth evening.

But it was Hasan Ali’s Test match, who had George Linde caught at point and unleashed his entertaining celebration at Pindi – “bomb-explosion celebration to a baby-cradle one in a nod to his impending fatherhood,” as described by ESPNcricinfo.

Pakistan won a Test series against South Africa after 18 years and when they achieved it way back in 2003, that was a transition phase, which never lived up to the expectations – still such victories are morale-boosting and should pave the way for a better future.

The second Test match had so many heroes and moments to relish. Faheem Ashraf heroics, Markram and Bavuma fight back, Mohammad Rizwan reminded of Saleem Yousuf and Moin Khan, Nauman Ali gave his best, George Linde showed promise and in the end, Hasan Ali overshadowed everyone with his comeback in white clothes.

Since that outstanding tournament back in 2017 in England, Ali was starting to fade and follow the path of his predecessors – who came, enjoyed a short honeymoon period, and then vanished like the early morning dew.

Then there was that career-threatening injuries and Hasan was dropped from the PCB’s list of centrally contracted players and still, he is without a central contract. It made clear the PCB did not view him as part of their plans for the future, with speculation that his career at the highest level was over.

Hasan wished to bounce back.

He took first-class cricket seriously. He realized that playing the shorter formats would not give him anything.  After a season in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy where he was the most prolific fast bowler with 43 wickets, he earned a recall to the Test side eight months.

He was not impressive in Karachi but came back in style in Rawalpindi.

Ali began by kissing the outside edge of Dean Elgar just before tea on the second afternoon; Rassie van der Dussen had no chance against an inswinger that castled him, and on Day 3, Hasan first cleaned up George Linde with a slower delivery, Keshav Maharaj was undone by the reverse swing, Anrich Nortje decided to shoulder arms to a ball that began on a fifth stump line before it clattered to the stumps and Ali achieved the five-wicket haul.

He broke through in the second innings of South Africa – Rassie van der Dussen applied himself well on the penultimate day of the match and was on 48 overnight but fell to the third ball of the final day. Hasan beat his inside edge with a late swing to end a 94-run second-wicket stand with Markram.

Two overs later, Hasan had du Plessis trapped lbw with an incoming delivery that stayed low – Du Plessis reviewed but ball-tracking showed middle and leg stump would have been hit by any means, and then came the game-changing spell after the lunch break.

“One thing is very clear – I like Test cricket a lot,” said Hasan Ali.

“I always dreamed of playing Test cricket, and now I’m a Test cricketer. This is the format I would pick over all the others, and you want to keep your motivation and work ethic up if you want to play Test cricket. I told the management I was ready for all three formats and prepared myself such that even if I got a go in Test cricket, I’d be raring to go.”

“Staying away from cricket for 16-17 months after being a part of all three formats was difficult. But I’ve worked day and night to get back to where I was, demonstrated both my form and fitness in domestic cricket and thankfully that has translated to international cricket.”

“When players return, it’s true that a lot of players can’t get the same pace back. But if you work hard enough, those things come back to you. I still remember that I used to do rehab several times a day and then the Covid pandemic struck and I was stuck at home. That is frustrating of course, but I never let my work ethic drop. I got lots of injuries but if you work hard, nothing is difficult anymore.”

“It was a very tough time for me, but you’ll always have good and bad days. I try to keep a smile on my face and relax. Life goes up and down but if you don’t enjoy it, then what’s the point? You only live once, so smile through it. I used social media to show my fans that I’m motivated through the tough times, and I’m sure they appreciated it.”

“The special thing [about his haul of 10/114] was that I was injured. And the other thing was the hard work that I put in. I was making a comeback and making a comeback doesn’t mean just coming into the side, playing the match, and going back. My aim was to perform for my country.”

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The return of Hasan Ali should be a huge boost for Pakistan and one can expect this brilliant comeback to bore fruits for Pakistan and world cricket. The Pakistani pacers are always mercurial and world cricket needs more such bowlers.

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