Abu Dhabi: With opener Imam Ul Haq out of action for three weeks following a surgery on his fractured finger, Azhar Ali in all probability will open for Pakistan with veteran Mohammad Hafeez in the second and final Test against Australia at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium on Tuesday.
Pakistan also have an option of giving the Test cap to their ODI opener Fakhar Zaman but that is a huge gamble given the poor form he has had in the Asia Cup. Zaman had managed only 56 runs in five games, including two ducks.
"While playing for Pakistan, one has to be ready for everything. I have always believed in that and whatever the team management decides or the captain decides, I will be ready to do that."
- Azhar Ali
Batting at No 4, Ali too has failed to impress with the bat in the first Test and had forgettable scores of 4 and 18. However, the 33-year-old is confident of taking up the challenge, weather the new ball and provide a good start if he is asked to open.
“While playing for Pakistan, one has to be ready for everything. I have always believed in that and whatever the team management decides or the captain decides, I will be ready to do that,” said Ali, who was confident of playing the waiting game and is ready to grind it out on another dry track of UAE.
“On these wickets in UAE you have to take time. With the hard ball, you still manage to score but as soon as the ball gets soft it becomes difficult.
“Especially when there is wicket-to-wicket bowling, then you have to show all the more patience. The key to survival will be to be patience and look for opportunities to score and try and absorb the pressure. It is the key even when you are facing the new ball or batting in anytime of the day,” revealed Ali, who has been in poor form with the bat in the series against Ireland and England as well. In the last eight innings, he has accumulated just 95 runs which includes a 50 against England in the first Test at Lords.
“I don’t think there is any psychological impact here but yes, I have had fitness issues in the past. I have worked hard and have been in the gym and I feel it is a matter of just one inning. If I can put one big score then Inshallah, everything will fall into place and things will get settled. It is important for me to stay focused and believe that once you get a could knock behind, things will start rolling again,” said Ali, who has figured in 66 Tests for Pakistan and scored 5224 runs including an unbeaten triple hundred against West Indies in 2016.
The Australia bowlers seemed to have read Azhar well and planned his dismissals in the first Tests but the latter begs to differ. “Any international team will try to read you but then it is your job to counter the plans they set for you. I think it is basic stuff and I don’t think they have planned any such stuff which was special.
“They have bowled according to conditions and that’s how you bowl on these wickets. Only by doing that bowlers can apply pressure,” said Ali, who accepted that the pressure will be on Pakistan to win the second Test and clinch the series.
“Pressure is always different in every match but obviously this is a decider. Being the home team, we have to win it and we will enter the field thinking that. We will look to play positive cricket and hopefully the result will go our way Inshallah,” said Ali, adding that the team was looking to gain inspiration from the positives of the first Test that ended in a draw.
“We are not disheartened, but yes disappointed obviously after dominating the Test match throughout. It is unfortunate that we couldn’t win. We also have to give credit to the Australians as well as they showed resilience and kept fighting till the end.
“The positive thing is that we played good cricket in all the sessions apart from one or two. We are a young side and there are players who have not played that many Tests and still performed well. We have to carry these positives and more forward.”