Ashraf Ali Siddiqui looks at a career salvaged
After left out in the cold for four years, deprived of captaincy of the team and at the age of 35 years, fortune again smiled on Sarfaraz Ahmed and he grasped it with both hands and came back in the game of cricket with a bang. Sarfaraz shines in New Zealand series was sidelined by the PCB after he lost his form and was not given a chance to recover it and was removed. His return was made possible because Rizwan Ahmed lost his form and also change happened in the top hierarchy of the PCB with Najam Sethi & Co. taking over the management. Throughout the test series with New Zealand Sarfaraz performed in an outstanding manner and scored his fourth century in eight years. Sarfaraz top scored the series with 335 runs with three fifties and a hundred.
Amidst plenty of public support roaring “Pakistan jeetay ga” (Pakistan will win) Sarfraz Ahmed’s time at the crease saw an uptick in Pakistan’s scoring rate. The plucky batter kept the scoreboard moving; his presence inspired positivity. His shots were flowing as he raised a third half-century in three innings since his return. Pakistan was staring at defeat at lunch with the total on 125-5 but Sarfaraz led the fight back during a sixth wicket stand of 123 in three hours with Saud Shakeel who made 32. Pakistan reached 179-5 at tea, needing a further 140 runs in the 31 overs — a point from where Sarfaraz sped up the run rate by smashing three boundaries and a six off spinner Michael Bracewell before driving pacer Matt Henry for two to reach his hundred. In all, Sarfaraz batted for four hours and 48 minutes, hitting nine boundaries and a six — an improvement on his previous highest of 112 made against the same opponents in Dubai eight years ago.
In the last test, Pakistan’s last pair Naseem Shah and Abrar Ahmed survived 21 balls in fading light Pakistani tail wagged depriving New Zealand of a victory, bringing the second Test to a sensational draw in Karachi. New Zealand was in sight of a series-clinching victory after dismissing Sarfaraz for a career-best 118 with 39 balls remaining in the match. But as dusk settled, Naseem scored 15 and Ahmed seven to guide Pakistan to 304-9 in pursuit of a 319-run target when umpires Alex Wharf and Aleem Dar declared the light unfeasible to continue with three overs remaining. The two-match series ended 0-0 after the first Test — also in Karachi — ended in a draw, depriving New Zealand of their first series win in Pakistan for 53 years. The previous best winning chase in a Test in Pakistan was 314 by the home team against Australia in Karachi in 1994. TW