Pakistan top order batsman Babar Azam etched his name into the cricketing folklore of Pakistan after his match winning knock of 101 against New Zealand on Wednesday at Birmingham.
Azam, who alongside Haris Sohail, guided his team to a memorable win against the Black Caps, a side that were until then unbeaten, also grabbed a number of records for himself.
This was Azam’s tenth century in 50-Overs cricket and the first in World Cup, as he became the first non-opening batsman from Pakistan to score a century in the World Cup since 1987.
Babar also went past the 3000 runs milestone in ODI cricket, the Pakistani batsman achieved the feat in 68 innings, which is seven fewer than his idol Virat Kohli. The 24-year-old is now only behind South Africa’s Hashim Amla, who achieved the feat in 11 fewer outings.
Interestingly, Babar also got to the 1,000 and 2,000 run-marks in fewer innings than Indian captain Virat.
“I can say that this is one of my best knocks because the aim is to be the best batsman in the world,” said Babar, who is already the top-rated batsman in the world in Twenty20 cricket.
Pakistan batting coach Grant Flower feels Babar Azam has got Indian run-machine Virat Kohli’s “hunger” and the talent to match his idol’s awe-inspiring feats one day.
“He is very special. I believe he is going to be one of the best that Pakistan have ever produced. He’s really hungry, is fit and still very young,” Flower said.
“I think he’ll have a really good career if he keeps his feet on the ground, which I think he will. He’s got Virat’s hunger. I think he could be at some point in the future,” Flower added when asked about comparisons with Kohli.
Impressed by his batsman’s performance, Flower, a former Zimbabwe opener, said, “He’s definitely got that hunger, so if you practice as hard as he does, and you have his skills, I can’t see why he can’t get to the top.”
On Babar, Flower further said, “He’s had flu over the last couple of days. Tuesday was the first time I’ve not seen him hit any balls the day before a match.
“Confidence-wise, this is definitely his best one (century).
“I’ve seen him get quite a few hundreds on pretty flat wickets, but this was a tough wicket – it was turning, (Lockie) Ferguson was bowling fast and there was a lot of pressure because of the context of the tournament.