Pakistan’s promising young talent Baabar Azam heads into the VB ODI series against Australia with a chance to knock off one of the oldest ODI cricket record set by the great Sir Vivian Richards 37 years ago.
The 22-year-old will play the first ODI in Brisbane on Friday, requiring another 114 runs in two innings to become the fastest man to score 1000 ODI career runs, the record first set by the legendary Viv Richards in 21 innings.
However, the stylish right-handed batsmen had a tour he’d rather forget – only managed a top score of 23 in eight innings in Australia this summer with an average of just 11.33.
But he showed signs of returning back to his best with a composed, well-made 98 in Pakistan’s only warm-up game against Cricket Australia XI ahead of the series in Brisbane.
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Azam’s current tally of 886 runs in 18 innings is the most of any players at this point of his brief career, three ahead of Richards. And if he manages to score another 114 in the next two innings, he’ll do it faster than Richards, Quinton de Kock, Kevin Pieterson and Jonathon Trott, who share the record of 1000 runs in just 21 outings to the middle.
“I’m aware of the record, but I’m putting emphasis on the performances of my team,” Azam told cricket.com.au after he struck 12 boundaries during his side’s thumping 196-run win at Allan Border Field.
“For Pakistan to do well in the ODIs, that’s my first priority.
“The Test series was difficult and I didn’t get an opportunity to score a lot of runs, so this practice match was good for me to spend time in the middle.
“I’m grateful that I got an opportunity today to do better.”
Azam has been a regular part of Pakistan ODI side since his debut against Zimbabwe in 2015 and had played a handful of promising knocks before he enjoyed a breakout series against West Indies last October – amassed scores of 120, 123 and 117 in the space of eight days to announce himself to the international arena.
His tally of 360 runs in a three-match series was also a record, which also helped him to propel into the Test side for the first time in his career.
But Babar will enter Pakistan’s next assignment with an average of mere 27, which shows his poor run of form in the elite format since his 69 on debut and defiant unbeaten 90 against New Zealand last November.
His hopes of a form regain in the one-day series opener were given a boost when Australia announced the resting of pace bowler Josh Hazlewood, who removed Azam four times in six innings during the recently concluded Test series.
“I played against him in the Under-19s and he was a very good bowler then,” Azam said of Hazlewood.
“Hopefully in the future I’ll do much better against him than he does against me.”
Azam has the opening two matches of the upcoming series to join such illustrious company.
Fastest to 1000 ODI runs
Sir Viv Richards (West Indies) – 21 innings| Kevin Pietersen (England) – 21 innings| Jonathan Trott (England) – 21 innings| Quinton de Kock (South Africa) – 21 innings
* Pakistan’s Babarr Azam has 886 runs from 18 ODI innings
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Featured photo credit: Sadaf Jabeen/Flickr