Pakistan veteran batsman Mohammad Hafeez was playing his first Test in more than two years. Despite being part of the Pakistan set-up in last year’s Champions Trophy win, he found himself slowly phased out of all teams as the management went for youth.
Continued question marks over his bowling action made him an unattractive option. He wasn’t given a chance in the Zimbabwe ODIs and didn’t feature in the Asia Cup in the UAE.
But a disastrous Asia Cup campaign for Pakistan and loss of form of key batsmen like Fakhar Zaman and captain Sarfraz Ahmed saw the 37-year-old make a comeback to the Test team, more so because he could bowl off-spin again to the plethora of left-handed batsmen in the Aussie line-up.
But on the opening day of the first Test in Dubai, Hafeez showed his batting is still his forte. Teaming up with youngster Imam-ul-Haq, the right-handed batsman hit a sublime century (126) against a dispirited Australian attack, putting the men in green in total control.
BALLS FACED: 208
STRIKE RATE: 60.5
The wicket was flat and Australia were without frontline quick bowlers Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. But you still have to score the runs and Hafeez hardly put a foot wrong as he batted with total ease from the start. He did not let Australian spinners Nathan Lyon and Jon Holland settle, forcing Tim Paine to constantly shuffle his bowlers. A master of the conditions.
Hafeez didn’t let the scoreboard slow down at any moment. All the batsmen needed to do was find the gaps as the ball neither spun nor did it offer reverse swing on the opening day. He swept off-spinner Lyon almost habitually and made up for the slow batting of Imam, who was on 65 from 167 balls when Hafeez reached three figures from 172 deliveries.
The opener lost his focus when part-timer and debutant Marnus Labuschagne came on to bowl in the 44th over. He first lofted left-arm spinner Holland towards long-off where Mitchell Marsh spilled a tough but catchable chance. Then in the next over off Labuschagne, Hafeez tried to loft the leggie only to get a leading edge that landed safely in the off-side.
The conditions were perfect for batting but you still have to put bat to ball and score the runs. Hafeez looked at ease, which is understandable as he is fresh off a double century in first-class cricket in Pakistan. The men in green needed to make a statement with the bat after their Asia Cup debacle and their proven performer delivered straightaway.
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