Grant Flower expects Pakistan run machine Babar Azam to "break a lot of records" but fears there is a danger he could regret taking over as captain.

Babar is the top-ranked Twenty20 international batsman in the world and has established himself as one of the best players on the planet in all formats.

The 25-year-old was named T20I skipper last October and also took the ODI captaincy this month.

Flower recognised the elegant right-hander was a special talent when he first started working with him as Pakistan batting coach and believes he is destined for greatness.

He told Stats Perform News: "Babar is brilliant.

"The first time I saw him play and first time I worked with him - when I threw balls at him at the academy in Lahore - he picked up length so much quicker than the rest of the players and I think that's the hallmark of a great batsman.

"If you look at some of the best players in the world like Steve Smith, Virat Kohli et cetera, they pick up length really quickly and play the ball late, have a great eye and hand-eye coordination. He has that and I think he is going to break a lot of records.

"Even in T20 cricket he plays normal cricket shots and that is also the sign of a great player. As long as he stays humble, which I'm sure he will as he's a good bloke, there is no reason why he can't be one of the best and he already pretty much is."

Sri Lanka batting coach Flower hopes Babar thrives as a leader but fears his form could suffer due to the extra pressure on his shoulders.

The former Zimbabwe all-rounder said: "He's got a good cricketing brain but there's a lot of politics in Pakistan cricket and a lot of pressure from the public.

"If you start losing, it's one thing being the best batsman but that will put pressure on your batting skills and it can all come tumbling down pretty quickly.

"We've seen with great players in the past the pressures that captaincy can bring, but some players get better and if he gets better then the world is his oyster. Time will tell.

"But he seems pretty positive about it, I read what he said in an interview when he got the captaincy. I wish him all the best and hopefully all positives come with that."

 

- Grant Flower was speaking on behalf of The Conservation Games, a first-of-its-kind initiative from the Zambesia Conservation Alliance. To watch Grant in action, visit and subscribe to the Conservation Games channel on YouTube.

Babar Azam has been confirmed as Pakistan's new one-day captain, while Azhar Ali will remain in charge of the Test team.

Batsman Babar is to lead his country in white-ball cricket for the 2020-21 season, the Pakistan Cricket Board confirmed on Wednesday when announcing the new list of central contracts for the upcoming campaign, which begins on July 1.

The 25-year-old averages 54.17 in his 50-over career for Pakistan and sits third in the International Cricket Council’s batsmen rankings, behind India duo Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

He had already replaced Sarfraz Ahmed in charge of the Twenty20 side but will now be skipper in the ODI format too, though it is unclear when Pakistan will next be in action.

A one-day tour to the Netherlands was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning they may not play a 50-over fixture until they take on South Africa in October.

Ali, meanwhile, is to continue in the Test job, with Pakistan scheduled to play a three-match series against England during a tour that also includes a trio of T20 games.

"I want to congratulate Azhar Ali and Babar Azam for getting captaincy extensions," Misbah-ul-Haq, chief selector and head coach, said. "This is absolutely the right decision as they also require certainty and clarity on their future roles.

"I am sure they will now start looking to the future and start planning so that they can build sides that can perform at the expected levels."

Meanwhile, Naseem Shah and Iftikhar Ahmad were the two new additions to receive central contracts – but Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz were all absent from the 18-man list.

Amir and Wahab "remain in contention", however, as Misbah is hopeful the experienced duo can help aid the development of Pakistan's up-and-coming fast bowlers.

Misbah said: "The selectors have made the tough decisions to leave out Amir, Hasan and Wahab but considering Hasan missed most of the season due to an injury and Amir and Wahab decided to focus on white-ball cricket, this was the right move.

"However, Amir and Wahab are senior and experienced bowlers and they remain in contention as we believe they can still contribute to the Pakistan men’s cricket team and also mentor our young battery of fast bowlers."

Oshada Fernando struck a defiant maiden international century but Pakistan need only three wickets to seal a Test series win over Sri Lanka heading into the final day in Karachi.

The hosts had piled on the runs in the first half of Sunday's play, Azhar Ali (118) ending a year-long wait for a Test century and the classy Babar Azam (100 not out) hitting a third in his last four matches after Abid Ali and Shan Masood had reached three figures on day three.

It was only the second time in history the top four have all made centuries in the longest format, enabling Pakistan to amass a mammoth 555-3 declared at the National Stadium.

The tourists were set an unlikely 476 to secure a 1-0 win in the first Test series to be played in Pakistan for a decade, but they were on the ropes at 212-7 at stumps.

Opener Oshada was unbeaten on 102 after he and Niroshan Dickwella (65) put on 104 for the sixth wicket, but Haris Sohail and the excellent Naseem Shah (3-31) struck late in the day as Pakistan closed in on victory.

Azhar set about Vishwa Fernando with a flurry of boundaries and celebrated his 16th Test century – albeit his first as captain - after Pakistan resumed on 395-2 in batting-friendly conditions.

The home team's skipper, who struck 13 fours in a brilliant knock, was finally on his way when he was stumped coming down the track to Lasith Embuldeniya, ending a third-wicket stand of 148.

Babar hit Lahiru Kumara for three boundaries in a row and the declaration arrived after he had recorded a ton for the second time in the series.

Sri Lanka were in trouble on 40-2 when 16-year-old Naseem had Kusal Mendis taken by Babar at third slip without scoring just one run after captain Dimuth Karunaratne had edged Mohammad Abbas behind.

Shaheen Afridi got in on the act by dismissing Angelo Mathews before tea, but Oshada stood firm and was rewarded with a half-century early in the evening session.

A fourth-day finish looked a possibility after Dinesh Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva fell cheaply, but Oshada and Dickwella refused to accept defeat.

Oshada had a life when he was put down by Naseem at backward point on 72 off Yasir Shah, while Dickwella was operating in one-day mode at the other end.

The wicketkeeper-batsman found the ropes 11 times in an entertaining knock before he was bowled by Haris attempting a reverse sweep. Naseem got rid of Dilruwan Perera just before the close too, not long after the resolute Oshada had celebrated reaching his hundred.

Lahiru Kumara and Lasith Embuldeniya did the damage as Pakistan were bowled out cheaply on day one of the second Test before losing three wickets in reply at Karachi National Stadium.

Pakistan collapsed from 127-3 to 191 all out after winning the toss, Kumara taking 4-49 and Embuldeniya – replacing the injured Kasun Rajitha – claiming 4-71.

Azhar Ali's side capitulated after Babar Azam (60) and Asad Shafiq (63) made half-centuries in a series-decider after the first Test in Pakistan for a decade ended in a draw, with only 167 overs possible due to rain and bad light.

The tourists were 64-3 at stumps, trailing by 127 runs, Mohammad Abbas picking up 2-21 on an eventful first day.

Vishwa Fernando and Kumara were excellent with the new ball and the former was rewarded when he cleaned up Shan Masood, then bowled captain Azhar for a second-ball duck.

Abid Ali struck a century on debut in the first Test in Rawalpindi and was going along nicely until he was trapped in front by Kumara, reducing Pakistan to 65-3.

The prolific Babar, who made a hundred last week, came down the track to dispatch Embuldeniya for six and also hit eight fours, but the spinner had the last laugh.

Babar was stumped, foxed by the turn when Embuldeniya tossed one up, and the left-arm tweaker struck again to see the back of Haris Sohail before Kumara hit the top of Mohammad Rizwan's off stump.

Kumara was on a hat-trick in the first over after tea when he trapped Yasir Shah lbw and the paceman drew a poor shot from Shafiq as Pakistan lost six wickets for 24 runs. 

Shaheen Afridi had Oshada Fernando caught behind in the seventh over of Sri Lanka's reply, with Abbas getting rid of skipper Dimuth Karunaratne (25) and Kusal Mendis (13).

Sri Lanka will be counting on former skipper Angelo Mathews when they resume on day two looking to secure a healthy lead.

Abid Ali became the first player to score a hundred on both Test and one-day debut as the rain-ruined first Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka finished in a predictable draw.

Abid was one of three players to reach a century on the fifth day in Rawalpindi, Dhananjaya de Silva (102 not out) having done so for the tourists in the morning session before Sri Lanka declared their first innings on 308-6.

Pakistan lost Shan Masood for a duck at the start of their reply but opening partner Abid, along with Babar Azam, capitalised on the opportunity to spend some time in the middle knowing the result of the contest was already a formality.

The pair came together following the departure of Azhar Ali for 36, the Pakistan captain caught at short midwicket off the bowling of Lahiru Kumara to leave the score at 90-2.

However, Sri Lanka failed to make any further inroads into the home line-up before play was called off early due to bad light.

Having made 112 on his first ODI appearance for his country against Australia back in March, Abid marked his Test bow with an unbeaten 109 from 201 deliveries. His knock included 11 fours, while he happily played second fiddle in an unbroken partnership worth 162 for the third wicket.

Babar was far more expansive in his innings, delighting the home crowd in the first Test to be staged on Pakistan soil in over a decade. The elegant right-hander reached three figures with a punch through the covers for one of his 14 boundaries, reaching the landmark in what turned out to be the penultimate over of the game.

The teams will hope for better luck with the weather when they play the second and final Test in Karachi, starting on Thursday.

Azhar Ali insists the Test progress made by Babar Azam means Pakistan have a major positive to take out of their heavy series defeat to Australia.

Pakistan lost the second Test by an innings and 48 runs on day four in Adelaide after Nathan Lyon took 5-69 in their second innings of 239 all out.

The tourists were following on after Australia declared on 589-3 in a first-innings onslaught inspired by David Warner's 335 not out.

Pakistan also lost the first Test by an innings but Azhar was unwilling to completely write off the tour ahead of two matches against Sri Lanka later this month.

Already a star in limited-overs cricket, T20I captain Babar scored 104 in the opening Test in Brisbane and 97 in the first innings of this contest.

"He's been tremendous in white-ball cricket and in the recent past he's been gradually building up his Test stats as well," Test skipper Azhar said of Babar. 

"This series definitely will be the breakthrough he wanted. We were all hopeful that he would do it.

"He's a good enough player. We all know that. But sometimes if you score in tough conditions against tough bowling attacks, it gives you the extra boost and the belief that you can make even better strides in Test cricket.

"That's been a big positive now for us that Babar has stamped himself a Test player. He's been fantastic throughout the year, lovely to watch and hopefully he can continue this form in the Tests that are coming. Babar has been exceptional."

Azhar also highlighted the performances of wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan and Yasir Shah, who scored 113 in the first innings at number eight, but conceded the series was ultimately a disappointment.

He added: "Rizwan waited for his chance and then grabbed it with both hands. The way he batted at Gabba and the way he kept wickets in both games has been fantastic.

"We didn't want to give up at any stage and Yasir put up a lot of fight.

"But it has been a disappointing series. We didn't live up the expectations that were based around this young team. It's very hard here with a young bowling attack and we came with a lot of expectations but it didn't go well. 

"To win Test matches we need to take 20 wickets and we need to work out how to do that. And also to score big in the first innings – getting ahead of the game here is very important.

"It's always hard coming to Australia and we've been beaten by a better side. But very positive for the future, we will learn a lot.

"I'd like to congratulate Australia, especially David Warner for his triple hundred."

Steve Smith smashed an unbeaten half-century as Australia beat Pakistan by seven wickets at Manuka Oval to lead the Twenty20 International series.

Prolific captain Babar Azam made a classy 50 and Iftikhar Ahmed bludgeoned 63 not out from only 34 balls to get the tourists up to 150-6 after winning the toss.

Australia looked to be heading for an emphatic victory in the first match of the series when they were frustrated by rain, but they were not to be denied two days later in the day-night contest in Canberra.

Smith got them home with a magnificent 80 off 51 deliveries, pacing his innings to perfection as top-ranked Pakistan were consigned to defeat with nine balls to spare.

The brilliant Babar struck Kane Richardson's first two balls for four and kept Pakistan ticking along after Fakhar Zaman and Haris Sohail fell cheaply to Pat Cummins and Richardson respectively.

Ashton Agar (2-23) put the squeeze on, seeing the back of Mohammad Rizwan and Asif Ali with Pakistan struggling to increase the run rate, Cummins and Mitchell Starc also giving little away.

Pakistan were 106-5 when Babar was superbly run out by David Warner just after reaching his half-century - which included six fours - but Iftikhar struck Richardson for three sixes and found the ropes five times in a much-needed onslaught.

Warner (20) was looking ominous in the run chase until the in-form opener's off stump was clattered by Mohammad Amir and Australia were 48-2 in the sixth over when Mohammad Irfan got rid of Aaron Finch.

Smith was in imperious touch, though, effortlessly flicking Amir for a wristy six and putting on 58 for the third wicket with Ben McDermott, who was trapped in front by Imad Wasim for 21.

Former captain Smith took 15 off the 17th over from Amir and struck 11 boundaries before watching on from the other end as Ashton Turner struck the winning run in the penultimate over.

Rain stopped Australia from chasing down Pakistan's total as the opening Twenty20 match was abandoned at the SCG on Sunday.

Australia were 41-0 from 3.1 overs in the revised 15-over contest after Pakistan set the hosts 119 for victory, when the rain arrived again in Sydney.

Pakistan had reached 107-5 in the weather-affected game – a target readjusted after play was halted for just over an hour mid-match – before the clash was washed out.

Amid the threat of showers, Australia captain Aaron Finch won the toss and sent Pakistan into bat in the first of three T20s.

Fresh off a 3-0 series sweep of Sri Lanka, Australia got on top early after Mitchell Starc (2-22) – producing a first-ball duck – and Kane Richardson (2-16) struck to leave Pakistan 10-2.

Led by top-ranked T20 batsman and captain Babar Azam – who finished unbeaten on 59 from 38 balls atop the order – Pakistan recovered from their slow start.

Mohammad Rizwan (31) was Pakistan's next best performer before he fell victim to the spin of Ashton Agar (1-23), with Asif Ali (11) the only other batsman in double-figures.

Desperate for a result against the touring nation, Finch got Australia off to a flying start with an unbeaten 37 runs from 16 deliveries.

Finch hit 26 from one Mohammad Irfan over but rain spoiled the party, with the game just 11 balls shy of the five overs needed to constitute a match.

 

 

 

Pakistan's squad has had a major shake-up for the upcoming tour of Australia, with five uncapped players named across the Test and Twenty20 parties.

Sarfraz Ahmed was sacked as Pakistan's captain on Friday, with the wicket-keeper batsman also dropped from the squad following a dismal 3-0 T20 series defeat to Sri Lanka.

Azhar Ali has taken over as the Test captain and will have teenage seamer Muhammad Musa Khan, who has been included in both touring selections, at his disposal.

Experienced spinner Kashif Bhatti will also be available for Azhar, as will youngster Nasim Shah.

Khushdil Shah and leg-spinner Usman Qadir, meanwhile, have been included in the T20 squad, which will be led by Babar Azam.

Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, the injured Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Mohammad Amir, who announced his retirement from Test cricket earlier in 2019, have all dropped out of the five-day squad, while Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal miss out on the T20 group.

Pakistan will play three T20Is and two Tests in Australia, with the tour beginning on November 3.

 

Pakistan T20 squad in full: Babar Azam (captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir, Wahab Riaz.

Pakistan Test squad in full: Azhar Ali (captain), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Musa Khan, Nasim Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah.

Sarfraz Ahmed has been sacked as Pakistan's Test and Twenty20 captain, also losing his place in the squad for both formats.

Pakistan have endured a difficult 2019, with a poor start to the Cricket World Cup group stage meaning a late charge was not enough to secure their place in the semi-finals.

Sarfraz's sacking comes in the wake of a 3-0 T20 defeat to Sri Lanka, as the world's top-ranked side in the shortest format succumbed to a series whitewash.

While a decision on the captaincy for the 50-over format has been put on hold for now, Sarfraz – who retained his position last month despite his performances coming under scrutiny – has been removed as the team's skipper ahead of their Test and T20 tour of Australia, which starts in November.

Azhar Ali – who was white-ball captain prior to Sarfraz – will replace the wicketkeeper-batsman as Test skipper, while Babar Azam will take charge of the T20 side until the 2020 World Cup.

In a statement released by the Pakistan Cricket Board, Azhar said: "There is no bigger honour than to captain the Pakistan national cricket team in the pinnacle format of the game.

"I feel humbled, excited and privileged, and with the support of the team, look forward to justifying the faith that has been entrusted upon me for the World Test Championship.

"Sarfraz has done an excellent job in transforming raw talent into experienced players, and I now look forward to inspiring those skilful players.

"These are exciting times in Pakistan cricket with a new team management."

Pakistan dismissed their head coach and chief selector following the World Cup, with Misbah-ul-Haq taking over both positions.

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