x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Sami Aslam could be Pakistan’s answer to pressure and future

Young batsman has three centuries in three matches against India at the Under 19 Asia Cup and is a strong prospect for the senior team.

Sami Aslam showed with his century yesterday that he could be the solid opener the Pakistan senior team are looking for at the top of the batting order, which has been prone to many collapses. Satish Kumar / The National
Sami Aslam showed with his century yesterday that he could be the solid opener the Pakistan senior team are looking for at the top of the batting order, which has been prone to many collapses. Satish Kumar / The National

Given that the shelf life of a Pakistan opener these days is generally measured in minutes rather than matches, it was little surprise there was another new face on show at the Test in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

Not that it really matters too much, anyway. Whoever goes to the wicket first for the senior Pakistan team is only keeping the seat warm for Sami Aslam, judged by the brilliance of his match-winning century against India’s Under 19 team in Dubai.

If ever there was a Test-cricketer-in-waiting, the highly gifted captain of Pakistan’s age-group side is the one.

His innings was the spine of an unnecessarily tense two-wicket win over India in the Under 19 Asia Cup. “It is a pressure game when we play against India and it is good for me to handle it and take the responsibility for my team,” Aslam said.

The old adage claims there is nothing certain in life but death and taxes. Given the prevailing financial levvies in the UAE, however, perhaps that statement needs to be skewed slightly.

Instead, it should be: there is nothing certain in life other than death and an Asia Cup century for Aslam against India.

In two editions of this age-group tournament, he has played three matches against Pakistan’s main rival and scored a century in each.

This particular effort at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium was a flawless exhibition of strokeplay from a batsman with a wide array of shots.

At various points, he bludgeoned a slog-sweep for a huge six to the longest boundary. He threaded a 10-foot gap between Indian fielders with a reverse-swept boundary. And he essayed a string of late cuts, each more exquisite than the previous one.

Not long after he started, India appeared to be bowling for run-outs. They could have had him that way, too, but Aamir Gani missed with a shy at the stumps while fielding off his own bowling when Aslam was on 93.

He eventually did fall to that mode of dismissal, after making 108.

Pakistan needed 70 more to win from 82 balls at that point, and they made heavy weather of it, eventually only stumbling across the line with two wickets and three balls in spare.

It says much about the manner in which Pakistan finished that their coach, Azam Khan, was berating them on the field afterward, rather than celebrating the win.

“At one stage it looked like an easy game, then suddenly, the wickets were gone,” Aslam said. “That is just how India v Pakistan games are. It is always like that.”

Pakistan’s victory was mainly reliant on two key performers; Aslam with the bat and Karamat Ali with the ball.

After taking five against the UAE last time out, the leg-spinner took his wickets haul to nine in two matches over the space of three days with a classy spell of four for 28.

That included the vital takedown of India’s captain, Vijay Zol, who looked well set for his 20 runs.

Sanju Samson, the other star of the Indian batting line-up, also fell after getting a start as India managed a total of 250, which appeared just below par.

“It was a very competitive game and there were moments when the players were thinking more about their batsmen rather than their own strengths as a bowler,” said Bharati Arun, the India coach.

“It does happen. We have never been pushed like that this entire season. It was the first time our bowling had been pushed, so this was a great learning experience for them.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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