Pakistan ended the day one of the Karachi Test against New Zealand in a strong position as Babar Azam has now become the Pakistani batter with the most runs — 2,436 — in all formats of cricket in a calendar year.
Babar broke the record of former captain and incumbent batting coach Mohammad Yousaf, who made the record in 2006 with 2,435 runs to his name.
The national team captain played 51 innings in 44 matches in 2022 and averaged 55.30, with his highest score being 196 with eight hundreds and 17 fifties.
He was batting on 161 at the close of play. Agha Salman was the other not out batsman with 3 runs after joining Babar for last four-and-half overs of the day.
Babar was involved in 196-run stand for the fifth wicket with Sarfaraz Ahmed who returned to the side at the expense of Rizwan Ahmed for his first Test since January 2019.
They joined for this partnership after Pakistan lost fourth wicket – Saud Shakeel 22 caught at gully Henry Nichols on the bowling of Tim Southee – with 110 on the board and thus in an uncomfortable position.
During the partnership, the pair batted nearly through till stumps, surviving for almost two full sessions. While Babar’s unbeaten 161, which now pushes his Test average to more than 50, was the highlight of the day, equally memorable was Sarfaraz’s 86 in his first Test outing in nearly four years and his very first on home soil.
The day, however, had begun in disastrous fashion for Pakistan after they had chosen to bat. Abdullah Shafique and Shan Masood were both stumped off Ajaz Patel and Michael Bracewell respectively early on, the very first time a Test began with the first two wickets being stumping dismissals.
At the time, the new ball was turning on the fresh Karachi pitch that had some moisture, and both fell prey by coming down the track. When Imam-ul-Haq fell for 24 at the stroke of drinks in the first hour, the score read 48 for 3 and Pakistan appeared to have gifted their toss advantage away.
However, Babar and Saud Shakeel did make a brief recovery in a 62-run stand to drag Pakistan past hundred. The latter, though, fell for 22 just one over before lunch. That fourth wicket made the opening session truly belong to New Zealand, but little did the visitors know that they would have to wait for almost five hours for their next moment of celebration.
But on in Babar’s innings, he was given a life at 12 when Daryl Mitchell dropped him at first slip, and there was a potential run-out chance first over after lunch, but apart from that the Pakistan captain dominated the New Zealand bowlers.
As for Sarfaraz, who is playing Test cricket for the first time at home, it was the sweep that was most productive early on, using the shot against the spinners prodigiously even when someone like Patel got the ball to turn away from him. Sarfaraz’s innings, though, was a tad streaky, getting edges down to deep third when chasing wide deliveries from the seamers, or getting squared up by good-length deliveries that held their line.