February 19, 1985, Lahore, Punjab
Right hand bat
Top order batter
An opening batsman by trade, Azhar has worked his way steadily up Pakistan's domestic scene since 2006. That was the season he began opening regularly for Khan Research Laboratories, a move that fetched him two hundreds and two fifties in five matches, and he hasn't looked back.
All of his runs have been made with a compact technique, designed to get behind the line of each ball. Observers say he gets into a tangle against the shorter ball often but his patience is key. On an A tour to Australia in 2009, he twice made five-hour 70s against an attack that included Doug Bollinger, Clint McKay and Jason Krejza. That series propelled him into senior team focus and a solid if not spectacular 2009-10 season, coupled with a move to look beyond Younis Khan - this didn't quite work out - and Mohammad Yousuf, brought about a richly-deserved Test debut in the middle order at Lord's against Australia.
Azhar scored his first Test fifty in his second Test, in difficult batting conditions at Headingley, in a fourth-innings run-chase of 180 against Australia. His first Test hundred came only after he'd scored ten fifties, but that was only a minor blemish. Soon after that century against Sri Lanka came his landmark Test series, against England in the UAE in 2011-12, when he showed remarkable patience and temperament to score a second-innings century in another low-scoring match in Dubai. In a series dominated by the bowlers, Azhar was the only batsman from either side to average more than 50.
He was named ODI captain after the 2015 World Cup, taking over from Misbah-ul-Haq, but here's where Azhar ran into trouble. Pakistan slipped to a record-low No. 9 in ODIs under him before rising a place, just about qualifying for the 2017 Champions Trophy that featured the top-eight teams. In all they won 12 and lost 18 ODIs under Azhar, before he quit the captaincy in February 2017 in the wake of a 4-1 loss to Australia.
Osman Samiuddin and ESPNcricinfo staff
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