Pakistan's historic win and Babar Azam's rising star bring welcome relief to Misbah-ul-Haq

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It took just 17 deliveries on the final day in Karachi for Pakistan to wrap up their first Test series win on home soil since all the way back in 2006.

The setting was very much the same 13 years ago, with an Inzamam-ul-Haq led side beating West Indies by 199 runs at the National Stadium in Karachi to wrap up a 2-0 series here.

On Monday, it was a pack of men and a couple of teenagers led by veteran Azhar Ali which duly completed the formalities on the final day, with the last three Sri Lanka wickets falling without the addition of a single run.

While it was 19-year-old Shaheen Afridi who claimed a five-wicket haul in the first innings in Karachi, it was the even younger Naseem Shah who picked up his maiden fiver on Monday by cleaning up the Lankan tail.

Such a comprehensive 263-run win for Pakistan seemed completely out of the realms of possibility at the end of the second day’s play, but such has been the remarkable turnaround in the Test that the hosts have romped to victory with an almost entire day to spare.

The win has propelled Pakistan to as high as third in the ICC World Test Championship table, with Azhar Ali’s men now only behind India and Australia. It also marks a fitting end to a first Test series held on Pakistan soil in over a decade.

Young Naseem Shah looks like a star in the making.

Young Naseem Shah looks like a star in the making.

The visitors have played their parts alright, and need to be lauded for sending a full-strength squad for the historic Test series. They will, however, be disappointed to end up on the losing side after entering the two-match as slight favourites.

They will, in fact, be kicking themselves for losing the initiative in the second Test after dominating proceedings for the first two days in Karachi.

Pakistan’s incredible fightback had several protagonists and it took a colossal batting display on the third and fourth days to flip the script. Centuries from the top-four batsmen – a feat attained by any side in the same innings for only the second time in history – was at the forefront of their resurgence.

In 32-year-old Abid Ali, they have finally found an opener worth his salt with the right-hander registering two tons in his maiden Test series to add to his ODI debut ton against Australia. Then there was Babar Azam, with the batting prodigy adding to his rising star with tons in both Tests.

Three centuries in his last four Tests indicates that the 25-year-old is now coming into his own in the five-day format, and that could be the biggest positive for Pakistan to take from the series win. He showed his overseas credentials with two excellent showings against a formidable Australia attack last month, but it is the manner in which he has utterly dominated bowlers in his first home Test appearance that will please most Pakistan fans.

Babar was in monstrous form in his first home Test series.

Babar was in monstrous form in his first home Test series.

Babar made run-scoring look fun against the islanders in the series, and his two tons have shown what is possible from his bat if Test matches on Pakistan soil become the norm going forward.

The vociferous ovations he received every time he walked out to bat in Rawalpindi and Karachi was akin to the adulation the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli have received throughout their careers across the border.

There is no limit to how far Babar can go if he gets the benefit of playing more Tests on home soil, and Pakistan will desperately hope that proves to be the case in the coming decade. Meanwhile, skipper Azhar Ali’s much needed century in Karachi will shut up his detractors for now, and it will come as a welcome relief to the embattled team management which has come under increasing fire since the appointment of Misbah-ul-Haq as the head coach and chief selector.

Nothing has really gone right for Misbah since he replaced Mickey Arthur in the role, with the team’s meek capitulation on the tour of Australia foreboding an extended period of doom and gloom.

As such, the Karachi victory over a Sri Lanka side helmed by Arthur could not have come at a better time for the former Pakistan skipper whose lack of coaching credentials has invited plenty of critics.

Sri Lanka are not really be world beaters and the victory might have come in the comfort of home conditions, though it is one which has provided a desperately needed boost to Misbah and Pakistan.

There will no doubt be tougher tests and examinations which await Misbah’s men going forward and there are still plenty of holes which exist in the current squad. However, the dark clouds have lifted for now after a miserable stretch, and there is hope at last of better things in store.

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