Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup final, Mirpur March 8, 2014

After lengthy wait, Fawad grabs his chances

Misbah-ul-Haq has had to routinely rescue Pakistan after top-order collapses, but in the Asia Cup Fawad Alam showed the temperament to be a worthy ally
34

Fawad Alam has happened to this particular Pakistan team by accident, not by design. If Sharjeel Khan hadn't collided with Mohammad Hafeez against India and hadn't injured his knee in the process, Fawad would probably have still been carrying drinks. But a calculated 74 against Bangladesh, in his first ODI in more than three years, was followed by a resilient century in the final against Sri Lanka. The two innings were hardly about luck, made more of pluck.

Both against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, he kept the score ticking over with little flashiness and once set, he showed off a vast repertoire of strokes. Fawad has almost every shot that is necessary to score big in ODIs. He also uses the depth of the crease remarkably well in the latter part of his innings, ensuring deliveries that are meant to be yorkers are turned into low full-tosses. Perhaps this is an old trick but Fawad has managed to make use of it very well.

There is definitely an air of unremarkable-ness about Fawad, as Osman Samiuddin wrote on ESPNcricinfo earlier this week, but when Fawad flicked a six off Thisara Perera and celebrated in the 48th over, he broke new ground. He is now the first Pakistani left-handed middle-order batsman to score an ODI hundred. One wonders whether he knew of the existence of such a stat.

A first look at Fawad indicates he is in great touch. His confidence is evident in the way he has adopted a Shivnarine Chanderpaul-like stance and how he gets off the mark. In both games, he waited for the right ball and found boundaries to get going. Against Sri Lanka, he took a bit of time before he drilled one through the covers and against Bangladesh, he was gifted a short one by Shafiul Islam.

He reached 50 off 57 balls in that game, and was played his part in the final push - punishing Abdur Razzak's fuller length with two crucial sixes in the 48th over, which was still required after Shahid Afridi's 25-ball mayhem. But against Sri Lanka, his approach to the innings had to be vastly different till he completed his fifty.

He made sure wickets wouldn't be given away easily as he took his time, scoring 18 off his first 50 balls. He was not taking chances until a sweep off Sachithra Senanayake landed just short of the long-leg fielder. In the next over, the 33rd of the innings, Kumar Sangakkara dropped a difficult chance off Suranga Lakmal. Fawad persevered and got to his fifty off 91 balls. By then, Pakistan had forgotten about 18 for 3.

Soon enough, despite losing Misbah-ul-Haq, Fawad started biffing them straight or swiping at anything remotely loose. He was dropped on 92 by Chaturanga de Silva in the covers, and completed his century soon after, off 126 balls. His second fifty coming off just 35 balls, and with that Pakistan heaved a sigh of relief at finding a batsman capable of handling the difficult situations Misbah has been dealing with in the last several years.

He has played the background man very well, first to Ahmed Shehzad in the Bangladesh game and later to Misbah in the final. He works on the basis of a solid technique, very tight outside offstump at the start of the innings unlike many left-handers. He banks on the bowler's intention to come to him, and when they do, he capitalises.

Fawad will head back home in the safety of the knowledge that he has done enough to continue warranting a place in the Pakistan middle-order. The likes of Sohaib Maqsood and Shoaib Malik are in the World T20 side and while this could sway opinion about middle-order candidates, it would be hard to forget what Fawad did when Pakistan were 105-3 against Bangladesh and 18-3 against Sri Lanka.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • fgf72 on March 11, 2014, 22:57 GMT

    hopefully Pakistan don't waste fawad alams talent like they do with other players

  • mainul079080 on March 11, 2014, 3:27 GMT

    Even being a Bangladeshi no Pakistani i think is a better fan than me of Fawad. In last 3 and half years i posted many comments in cricinfo simply on Fawad to see him in the Pakistani team.Some were published some were not.I am so passionate about this great Pakistani left hander...He is a great greaat wasted talent.I can swear if he were given a proper run in the team he would have will simply pass Younus, Misbah by a mile.I like Misbah but i hate him only in one aspect.He was instrumental behind Fawad's exclusion along with the selectors. Lastly i want to request Misbah and selectors to continue Fawad in Pakistan team for the next decade for the benefit of Pakistani cricket and to recover their sin and he will be a legend by then

  • Dadu786 on March 10, 2014, 20:04 GMT

    He played like Shivnarine Chandarpaul,he keeps bowler in presure in death overs shufling on the crease.

  • dummy4fb on March 10, 2014, 4:34 GMT

    @Sidh79: 'SL not win a single series OUt side SL since 2000' You don't watch much cricket, do you?

  • Ray24 on March 10, 2014, 3:39 GMT

    Well played. Now he shoudl get Punjab residency to secure his place in the team.

  • Love-Pak on March 10, 2014, 2:36 GMT

    Why Fawad was dropped 2 test matches after making century in his first test?? made in Sri Lnaka against Sri lanka 3 and half years back !! Why players like Kamran Akmal, Shoiab Malik, Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Umer Ameen and most recently Sohaib Maqsood getting selection again and again even after so many times they have failed?? And Why Players like Fawad was dropped 3 years back and never given any chance ever again? Why Khurram Manzoor was dropped 4 years back after he made 79 not out against Australia in Australia when on the other side entire Pakistani team got out on 176 in that innings? and why he was not given any chance until 3 months back? Why Bhatti got so many chances even after he continue to fail and Why Anwar have not been given even half of chances then Bhatti when he already have shown that he is a better all rounder then Bhatti?? Why Always Asad Shafiq gets dropped after 1 or 2 innings failure when he has already proven that he is very talented batsman?? Any answer????

  • dummy4fb on March 9, 2014, 16:15 GMT

    It must be the mustache.

    Just give this lad time and he'll show success

  • sidh78 on March 9, 2014, 13:58 GMT

    Noticed one thing how the nature of the tracks(pitchs) change the quality of team.SL wins on super flat roads of bangaladesh.but same SL team thrashed by india in CT & tri series in ENG & WI on fast seaming bouncy tracks & SL not win a single series OUt side SL since 2000.really cricket is funny game.

  • dummy4fb on March 9, 2014, 12:11 GMT

    In second paragraph its not Both against Bangladesh and Pakistan its Both against Bangladesh and Srilanka

  • dummy4fb on March 9, 2014, 11:39 GMT

    Fawad Alam is comfortably suitable for both ODI & Test format. He will be a handy tool for the WC 2015. He shud never play T20I in life.

  • No featured comments at the moment.