Sport Babar already up there with Smith and Kohli - Azhar
Pakistan's Babar Azam hits sublime half-century to frustrate England
He hit nine boundaries as he reached 52 not out in just 71 balls, almost every one of them imperious, as he set about proving all of the praise he has garnered in recent months is well placed. The players were forced off the field by a shower just before 3pm and would have welcomed the chance to regroup after Babar's onslaught.As well as stalling England's progress his efforts also placed Shan Masood in the shade, the opener having ground out a valuable 45 not out across more than three hours.
Pakistan captain Azhar Ali believes Babar Azam is up there with Steve Smith and Virat Kohli as one of the best batsmen in the world ahead of the Test series against England.
Babar has proved he can be a class act in all formats and will be hoping to pick up where he left off on the Test stage at Old Trafford this week six months after he last played for his country.
The Pakistan white-ball captain scored four hundreds and two half-centuries in his last seven innings in the longest format before the coronavirus brought cricket to a halt.
Brilliant Babar and wasteful Buttler give Pakistan the edge at Old Trafford
Only 49 overs were bowled on day one of the Test series at Old Trafford, with Babar Azam lighting up a gloomy day.The tourists were 43-2 at one stage after Abid Ali and Azhar Ali, who had opted to bat after winning the toss, were dismissed by Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes respectively at Old Trafford.
Babar is sixth in the Test batting rankings, but Azhar says that is not a true reflection of his quality.
Asked if the 25-year-old can elevate himself to be put in the same bracket as Australia batsman Smith and India skipper Kohli in the next few weeks, he said "I think he is right up there already.
"People are thinking and talking about it. He is just hungry for runs and I think if he keeps doing that he will be up there for quite a long time
"His performances have improved massively in Test matches over the last year or so. Firstly he was performing really well in white-ball cricket and people thought he was only a white-ball player but he took on that challenge and played with a lot of freedom and flair.
"As a captain I want him to play the way he wants to. Just to relax and play his game and I'm sure if he does that he will go massively up the rankings in Test matches as well.
Wahab Riaz included in Pakistan's 20-man squad for England Tests
Pakistan have cut their touring party to 20 for the Test series against England, which starts in Manchester next week.The tourists have whittled down their 29-man touring party for the three-match campaign, which begins on August 5 at Old Trafford.
"He is a very important player for us but I would like him to be free from any pressure and just enjoy his game."
The boys are ready and are raring to go! Old Trafford is set for a gripping battle.— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB)
Azhar is also backing 17-year-old Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi to make a big impact in the three-match series with Joe Root's side, which starts in the bio-secure bubble in Manchester on Wednesday.
"They are very talented, obviously not as experienced as some of the bowling attacks that have come to England in the past, but potentially they are right up there," said Azhar.
"Naseem is a young talent who came up and played Test cricket from nowhere. He's impressed all of us and is in our number one bowling attack. Over time he will get the experience he needs.
"In terms of his potential, he is very threatening and hopefully he will be very good for us in this series."
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England host Pakistan in a month-long series comprising of three Tests and three T20 Internationals. Here's how to watch it anywhere onlineEngland now host Pakistan in a series that comprises three Test matches and three T20 Internationals throughout August. All six games will be played in the biosecure environments of the Emirates Old Trafford at Manchester and The Ageas Bowl in Southampton that hosted the series against West Indies and Ireland.
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