Before Rizwan, Azam was part of a long-standing partnership with Fakhar Zaman, with whom he opened 19 times and added 489 runs at an average of 25.73 and a run rate of 7.99, with a highest stand of 72. Since they began opening together, both Azam and Rizwan have enjoyed tremendous returns in T20Is: Rizwan is Pakistan's highest T20I run-getter this year, with 593 runs at an average of 98.83 and a strike rate of 142.89, with Azam has scored 439 runs at 39.90 and 135.07.
Their 150-run stand on Saturday set Pakistan up for their highest T20I total ever - 232 for 6 - and eventually a 31-run win in the first T20I against England, a stunning reversal of fortunes following a 3-0 ODI series defeat against a second-string home team. Having just put on the second-highest partnership for any wicket by a Pakistan pair, both Rizwan and Azam shared their insights in a PCB video.
"We discussed while going in that we would have a look at the pitch, how it behaved, and at what pace the ball would come [onto the bat]," Azam said. "We took one or two overs [to get our eye in], and I began to charge, because my shots were coming off nicely, but Rizwan bhai, I thought, was struggling for a few balls, so I was conscious of not adding any extra pressure on him. We spoke about having to score 10 an over, 8 an over, because it would be easier for the incoming batsmen if we put on a good, long partnership."
Rizwan then chipped in with his impressions of the partnership's strengths. "The key thing about our partnership is that whenever one of us looks to start power-hitting, we go and ask our partner. So we get the confidence that the non-striker has backed our instinct, and I know that the captain (Azam) has given me his inputs, or vice-versa, on whether this is the time for power-hitting or it isn't, and that eases the situation for both of us."
One of the metrics of trust between the two is Rizwan's record of run-outs - which he insists was a major issue for him earlier in his career. "I've been run-out 8 or 10 times earlier on, but my understanding with him is really good - his calling is much better than mine."
For the record, Rizwan was run-out six times in 64 innings in all international cricket until the end of 2020. This year, he's not been run out even once in 24 innings.
Azam says the pair doesn't even need to call while running between the wickets.
"We have a belief in each other, that whenever [the ball] goes in the gap, we can run two," Azam said. "Sometimes we don't even call, and start running with just a signal from the eyes."
Saturday's partnership didn't get off to the most fluent of starts, with both batters enduring early troubles against David Willey before settling in to score 49 in the powerplay. It took until the 12th over for Pakistan to hit their first six, but that triggered an avalanche, with the innings eventually going on to contain 12 sixes, equalling Pakistan's previous highest six-count, against Bangladesh in 2007.
"Willey was getting swing early on and our plan was to play him carefully, but we picked up a few boundaries after the second over, and that gave us confidence and momentum," Azam said. "Our plan after that was to keep going at 10 an over regardless of anything, whether that meant me taking a chance or Rizwan."