Fakhar Zaman hopes to make a mark at Lord’s
Not many followers of the game would have forgotten Fakhar Zaman’s exploits at the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
Across in England and Wales, playing in that part of the world for the first time, Zaman smashed 31, 50 and 57 in his first three appearances and then came the memorable 114 – in just 106 balls – as Pakistan beat India by 180 runs in the final at The Oval.
Zaman, Player of the Match in that final, is back in England, this time as part of the Test side. He has never played Test cricket before, and has in fact 31 first-class games to date for moderate returns of 2389 runs at an average of 41.91.
In the lead-up to the first of two Tests against England, starting at Lord’s on 24 May, Pakistan are playing a two-day game against Leicestershire at Grace Road, and Zaman gave a decent account of his red-ball form with a stroke-filled 71 in 98 balls with 14 fours as Pakistan finished the first day on 321/9.
“I didn’t play any red-ball cricket for nearly half a year, so it was a bit different for me,” Zaman told ESPNcricinfo. “But I am practicing with the red ball for the last one month or so, so it was really good for me to play the innings today.”
Zaman picked up speed as his innings developed, and he ended up scoring the bigger share of the runs by the time his partnership with Azhar Ali for the first wicket ended at 121.
“I was trying to be aggressive at the start also, but they were bowling really well and the wicket was also not very easy to score freely. So, I was waiting for the ball to come off the pitch,” explained Zaman.
Ali also did well, scoring 73, while Usman Salahuddin, uncapped at the Test level like Zaman, scored an unbeaten 69 from No.4.
With middle-order vacancies cropping up after the retirements of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, there is a chance for the younger batsmen to stake their claims, and Salahuddin might have done his cause a lot of good with the innings.
“There are opportunities, there are also some brilliant middle-order batsmen – you saw Usman Salahuddin. Saad Ali was unlucky but he can also replace them. It’s not easy to replace them, but he can take a place also,” said Zaman. “There are a lot of opportunities for us, so hopefully when we get (the chance) we will grab it with both hands.”
Whether Zaman gets to make his Test debut at Lord’s or not depends on the team management, who rested Imam-ul-Haq for the game after the young opening batsman scored a match-winning 74* in the historic one-off Test against Ireland.
With Ali also hitting form after scoring just 4 and 2 in Malahide, and Imam around, there might not be a slot at the top of the order for Zaman to walk into, and he is aware of that: “It depends totally on the coaches. I am really hopeful, but let’s see what they decide. If I’m selected, I’ll be very happy.”