“I try to punish the ball that is in my area,” said Shadab Khan. © Getty
A lower order batsman taking Pakistan to a respectable total must not take an ardent follower of the game by surprise. Pakistan’s specialist batsmen generally struggle in seaming conditions, and it takes only one wicket to spark a batting collapse.
What unfolded at Lord’s took aback many because the world has not tuned in to watch Pakistan put up a comprehensive batting display. Before the fans completely recovered from their hangover, Pakistan pulled off a batting performance at Headingley which was being expected from them when they were leaving Lahore for this tour.
After a disciplined batting display on a grassy wicket at Lord’s, Pakistan were back to their typical ways in Leeds. As the English bowlers, not James Anderson for that matter, started to hit the fuller lengths, giving the ball ample time to move in the air, Pakistan’s struggles began. It took them almost five overs to post their first runs on the board. And, by the time the visitors were off the mark, one of their openers, Imam ul Haq, was back in the pavilion (in the second over of the match) after he flirted with Stuart Broad’s fuller delivery moving away from him only to nick it to Joe Root at the third slip.
Azhar Ali was trapped LBW for the second time in three innings off a delivery that seamed into him, again a Broad dismissal. And, Chris Woakes, brought in place of Mark Wood for his ability to seam the ball, accounted for the wickets of Asad Shafiq and Haris Sohail as he hit teasing lengths before Broad returned to remove debutant Usman Salahuddin with another inswinger. Their captain Sarfraz Ahmed was beaten by a straighter delivery. A straighter delivery that did not do anything (in the air or off the surface). It left Anderson’s hand, landed fuller, and dismantled the stumps after deflecting off the pads as Sarfraz played all around it, trying to work it on the midwicket region.
If you had placed a bet on Pakistan getting rolled out under hundred, don’t consider yourself a fool for losing it in the end. Not many were giving them a chance to post a triple digit score. Pakistan managed 174 thanks to Shadab Khan, who scored his third fifty of the tour becoming only second teenage batsman after Umar Akmal to score fifties in three consecutive Tests (according to statistician Mazher Arshad) as he knitted an innings of 56 runs – embellished by square-cuts, cover drives, and glances off his pads – at an impressive strike-rate of 108.
“There was seam and swing when I was batting. I was only trying to do what I know,” said Shadab reflecting on his innings after the first day’s play. “Whenever I go in to bat, I take it as my last innings. I try to go as long as I can. Because the more time you spend on the crease, the more you will score.”
Nothing that Shadab said in the post-match press conference was new to the ears. After all, these are the basics that are told a child when he first enrolls at a cricket club. There is a school of thought which believes Shadab should be promoted up in the batting order. But, the teenager himself revealed there are no such discussions in the team dressing room at the moment.
Before wrapping up the media talk, Shadab unveiled how he go about his batting. “I try to punish the ball that is in my area,” he said. Pakistan batsmen needed to be there to listen to the youngest member of their squad.