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A reliable pair

Pakistan seem to have finally found two openers who can provide them solid foundations in limited-overs matches

A reliable pair

The Pakistan-Zimbabwe five-match One-day International series ended last week. It was a completely one-sided contest that the Green-shirts won 5-0, creating many records.

Pakistan team did not face any threat from Zimbabwe. They crushed the young and inexperienced Zimbabwe team in all departments of the game.

Finding reliable openers, especially in pacer-friendly conditions, has always been a headache for Pakistan. But now it seems that Pakistan have found two quite reliable openers in Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq. They provided solid foundation in four of the five matches.

They broke the all-time opening partnership record as they scored 704 runs together in the series. Fakhar scored 515 and Imam 395. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga scored 800 runs batting together but that was in nine innings in the 2011 World Cup.

The four century-partnerships between Fakhar and Imam equalled the record of Imran Farhat and Yasir Hameed, who did so in a series against New Zealand in 2003-04.

It was a memorable series for Fakhar as he became the quickest batsman to complete 1000 runs in his 18th innings. He surpassed Sir Viv Richards, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Quinton de Kock, and teammate Babar Azam who had completed 1000 runs in their 21st match.

In the fourth match of the series, Fakhar became the first Pakistan batsman to score a double century in an ODI. Before doing that he broke the record of former opener Saeed Anwar, who scored 194 against India in 1997, which was then the highest ever individual total in ODIs.

Before Fakhar, five batsmen had scored seven double hundreds in ODIs. Indian batsman Rohit Sharma has scored double centuries thrice. He also holds the record of the highest individual score (264) in ODI.

Fakhar scored his first double hundred in his 17th innings. Rohit and Martin Guptill had scored their double centuries in their 103rd innings.

During the Zimbabwe series, Fakhar scored 515 runs — which are the highest by any batsman in a five-match bilateral series. Pakistan’s former captain Salman Butt scored 451 runs in an ODI series against Bangladesh in 2007.

Indian captain Virat Kohli scored 558 runs in an ODI series against South Africa earlier this year, but that was a six-match series.

Imam justified his selection by scoring as many as three centuries, averaging 79, in the series. He had scored a hundred on his debut against Sri Lanka last October.

He is the first batsman to make four ODI centuries inside his first ten matches. Former English batsman Dennis Amiss is behind him with three centuries in his first ten matches.

In the fourth ODI against Zimbabwe, Fakhar and Imam scored 304 runs for the opening stand. It was the first 300-plus partnership for the first wicket in ODIs. The previous record was held by Sri Lankan openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga who scored 286 against England at Leeds in 2006.

Overall it was the fourth 300-plus stand for any wicket in ODIs. All three previous over-300 partnerships came for the second wicket: 372 by Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels against Zimbabwe in 2015; 331 by Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid against New Zealand in 1999; and 318 by Sourav Ganguly and Dravid against Sri Lanka in 1999.

For Pakistan, the previous highest stand for any wicket was set by Inzamam-ul-Haq and Aamer Sohail, who put together 263 for the second wicket against New Zealand in Sharjah in 1994.

Pakistan scored 399-1 in the fourth ODI, improving on their previous best of 385-7 against Bangladesh in Dambullah in the 2010 Asia Cup.

Pakistan beat Zimbabwe in the fourth ODI at Bulawayo by 244 runs. It was Pakistan’s second biggest ODI victory in terms of runs. The highest is the 255-run win over Ireland in August 2016.

Due to these memorable performances by the Pakistani openers, middle order batsmen did not get many chances to show their talent. But still young Asif Ali proved that he is a confident hard-hitting batsman for the last overs. In three innings, he scored 114 runs at a high strike rate of 180.95. He scored his first fifty in the fourth ODI off just 22 balls.

Babar Azam scored his eighth ODI century in the fifth match of the series. It was his 44th ODI innings. Only Hashim Amla of South Africa has played fewer innings for scoring his first eight centuries. He did so in 43 innings.

Khurram Mahmood

Khurram Mahmood 2019

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