Pakistan win the 2016-17 Gabba Test

And we're all in awe of Asad Shafiq

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
Mitchell Starc reacts to Steven Smith dropping Asad Shafiq off his bowling, Australia v Pakistan, 1st Test, Brisbane, 4th day, December 18, 2016

Mitchell Starc can't bear to face the world after being cut down to size by Asad Shafiq  •  Cricket Australia/Getty Images

This time in Alternative Universe, the series in which our writers let their imagination change the game, our Pakistan reporter unearths a new Imran Khan
The moment
Chasing 490 at the Gabba, Pakistan were expected to slump to a humiliating defeat, and for the most part, they kept their end of the bargain, staggering to 220 for 6. That was when Asad Shafiq stepped up to do what he has made a career out of: score irrelevant, pressure-free runs that make no difference to the outcome of a match. But as he scored a hundred and Pakistan went to a final morning suddenly requiring under 50, the runs were no longer irrelevant. That didn't go unnoticed by Shafiq, and when Starc sent down a beast of a bouncer from around the wicket that threatened to lodge up Shafiq's nostril, he fended it tamely to the slips, where David Warner stood primed.
The tweak
In our alternative universe, Shafiq, playfully mocked, patronisingly praised, but above all never taken seriously, weighs up the brute Starc delivery, and suddenly - this is the hardest bit to envisage - gets angry. He thinks about how he has scored hundreds in Australia, England and South Africa, which Joe Root, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson had not managed at that point, and feels he deserves a bit more respect. He leans back and wallops Starc over square leg, using the pace of the ball to heave it into the Gabba crowd. A luscious cover drive then brings up the victory, embarrassing Australia at their proudest Test venue.
What happened next
Shafiq is no longer the timid, adorable sidekick. Two further hundreds in the remaining two matches see Australia whitewashed in their own backyard. The undoing of the world's most aggressive bowler at the hands of its most timorous batsman is too much for Starc to take. He slinks away in shame, is dropped in disgrace, and is never spoken of again.
Shafiq, meanwhile, is allowed to bat wherever in the order he likes. There's this chump in the side, Babar Azam, who managed just 33 runs in that Gabba Test. Shafiq writes him off as a bottler, and worse, a limited-overs specialist, and Azam is forbidden from ever being seen with a red ball again.
Shafiq is appointed captain, and under his stewardship, Pakistan coast to the ICC Test Championship final, where India lie in wait. They are hesitant about playing Pakistan in Pakistan, so Shafiq calls up Sourav Ganguly, who, upon hearing his booming baritone, obsequiously acquiesces.
At the National Stadium in Karachi, Pakistan require four to win, Shafiq batting with the last man. Jasprit Bumrah nails his yorker, but Shafiq, having read it, looks to carve it past short third man for another famous Pakistan win. But… he misses, Bumrah hits, and India win in Karachi.
Let's keep things somewhat realistic after all, shall we?
For more such flights of fancy, click here.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000