Friday, January 06, 2023
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Babar wants Sarfaraz to 'keep shining' after superb ton against New Zealand

Sarfaraz Ahmed was named player of the match and series after scoring 335 runs in four innings

Pakistans Sarfaraz Ahmed bows to celebrate after scoring a century (100 runs) during the fifth and final day of the second cricket Test match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the National Stadium in Karachi on January 6, 2023. — AFP
Pakistan's Sarfaraz Ahmed bows to celebrate after scoring a century (100 runs) during the fifth and final day of the second cricket Test match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the National Stadium in Karachi on January 6, 2023. — AFP

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam seemed upbeat Friday after the Green Shirts successfully restricted New Zealand from winning the Test series in Karachi.

"Another fantastic inning by Sarfaraz bhai. Keep shining," the skipper wrote on Twitter as the wicket-keeper-batter helped Pakistan draw the match with his magnificent ton.

This was the right-hander’s first hundred since 2014 and fourth overall. Ahmed was also named player of the match and series after scoring 335 runs in four innings, with the help of three fifties and a hundred.

During the post-match presentation ceremony, Ahmed said: "I was part of the team for four years and despite not getting chances here I was continuing to play well elsewhere. Wanted an opportunity from Allah Almighty and got it."

“I was very tense in the first Test, but the boys and captain gave me confidence. [Last session today] when 140 runs were left, the management said that you need to keep trying to score when the ball is there to hit."

"But then two wickets fell, and so we changed our style of play. If those two wickets didn't fall then the result could've been something else," the right-hander said.

“It is a fourth-innings century so it is special, probably my best,” he said when asked if it was the best innings of his career.

The 35-year-old also thanked the crowd in Karachi and requested them to visit the stadium for the ODI series as well, which starts on January 9.

“Karachi crowd has always supported me. And always supported the team. Request them to come for the ODIs too,” he concluded.

Match report

Pakistan's last pair Naseem Shah and Abrar Ahmed survived 21 balls in fading light while Ahmed hit a fighting century to deprive NZ of a victory, bringing the second Test to a sensational draw.

New Zealand were in sight of a series-clinching victory after dismissing Sarfaraz for a career-best 118 with 39 balls remaining in the match.

But as dusk settled, Naseem scored 15 and Ahmed seven to guide Pakistan to 304-9 in pursuit of a 319-run target when umpires Alex Wharf and Aleem Dar declared the light unfeasible to continue with three overs remaining.

The two-match series ended 0-0 after the first Test — also in Karachi — ended in a draw, depriving New Zealand of their first series win in Pakistan for 53 years.

New Zealand took the second new ball and with the fourth delivery Tim Southee dismissed Agha Salman for 30 to break a 70-run stand for the seventh wicket before Bracewell dismissed Ahmed to raise hopes of a win.

But it was Ahmed whose fourth Test century — first in eight years — which set Pakistan on course for a fighting draw.

Pakistan were staring at defeat at lunch with the total on 125-5, but Ahmed led the fight back during a sixth-wicket stand of 123 in three hours with Saud Shakeel who made 32.

Pakistan reached 179-5 at tea, needing a further 140 runs in the 31 overs — a point from where Ahmed sped up the run rate by smashing three boundaries and a six off spinner Michael Bracewell before driving pacer Matt Henry for two to reach his hundred.

But once Pakistan lost Ahmed, Hasan Ali (five) and Salman in the space of 14 runs, the target went out of reach.

The previous best winning chase in a Test in Pakistan was 314 by the home team against Australia in Karachi in 1994.

Sacked as captain of all three formats in October 2019, Ahmed staged a comeback in the drawn first Test — also in his hometown of Karachi — and top-scored the series with 335 runs with three fifties and a hundred.

In all, Sarfaraz batted for four hours and 48 minutes, hitting nine boundaries and a six — an improvement on his previous highest of 112 made against the same opponents in Dubai eight years ago.