England and Pakistan are currently playing the first Test of the three-match series at Old Trafford in Manchester. As the fans were expecting, Pakistan top-order batsman Babar Azam shined on Day 1 when the visitors won the toss and opted to bat first.
Azam showed his exemplary class and added a crucial 96-run stand for the third wicket with opener Shan Masood on the first day. But, when the Lahore-born came to bat on Day 2, he failed to add even a single run on his overnight score of 69 as England paceman James Anderson got the better of him.
However, Babar did not fail in impressing his admirers and cricket pundits. Former England captain Nasser Hussain was so enthralled by the 25-year-old that he ended up demanding a brand new ‘Fab 5’ batting list featuring Babar.
But another ex-England skipper Michael Vaughan was of a different opinion. Vaughan reckoned that Root has been kicked out of the current ‘Fab 4’ list by Babar. The cricketer-turned-commentator said that the current English skipper is no more the part of the elite group which includes Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson as the other three batsmen.
“The big player Babar Azam strolled out there. Played and missed his first few deliveries and you think can he play the moving ball? Then all of a sudden, he just starts to get his form, his balance, puts one down the ground. Played a beautiful back-foot punch of James Anderson,” Vaughan told Cricbuzz.
“We saw that glorious cover drive that he got, and then he danced down and whacked one over mid-wicket. You keep talking about the ‘Big Four’, and I keep hearing about this, Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith, Joe Root, they kind of mention him in that top four but I am not too sure about that at this stage. I reckon Babar Azam has totally shifted Joe Root out of the way as we speak because of his record off late,” he added.
Vaughan predicted that Babar could replicate Smith’s performance in England and can dominate the hosts like the former Australian captain did with his 774-run tally from 4 matches in the 2019 Ashes.
“He is averaging 65 in his last 18 months of Test cricket. No one is averaging higher than him. Babar Azam is at the top of the average tree, and I can only see him improving and getting better and better. We saw Steve Smith do to England; one man has never ever done it in my time. He played out a series on his own to win Australia the Ashes. I have got a funny feeling if England don’t work out a way to bowl out Babar Azam we can see a similar thing happening in the course of the 3 Test matches. You only need in England to one of your batsmen to go big,” the 45-year-old added further.
Vaughan, who served as England Test captain from 2003 to 2008, pointed out only one chink in Babar’s batting – his disability to execute a pull-shot.
“There was just one chink I saw today when Babar Azam could not play the pull shot well when Jofra Archer bowled a short delivery into his armpits. That is one thing England can target going forward into the series, but he is a high-class player,” concluded Vaughan.
Meanwhile, Pakistan posted 326/10 in their first innings on Day 2, thanks to opener Shan Masood (156), who smashed a magnificent century. England, on the other hand, started their first innings terribly. The hosts lost four wickets on 92 at the end of day’s play with Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler unbeaten on 46 and 15, respectively. For the visitors, Mohammad Abbas picked two wickets while Shaheen Afridi and Yasir Shah bagged one scalp apiece.