His entry to Test cricket might have come late, but Abid Ali has looked the part, scoring four centuries in his first 15 Tests to become one of Pakistan’s leading red-ball batters, with numbers that, on the surface, match up against some of the very best Pakistan have ever produced. And while his start has been commendable, sterner tests definitely await him.
Abid Ali earned his international debut at 31, the same age by which another opener, Alastair Cook, had crossed 10,000 Test runs. In relative terms, Abid Ali is a late bloomer, but he looks like a man on a serious mission, looking to make up for all the lost time. On his ODI debut against Australia in Dubai, he cracked a ton, and by the end of the year, had earned his Test cap too, celebrating it with another century in his maiden outing.
It made him the first male batter to cross the three-figure mark on both one-day and Test debuts, helping him pierce into a busy scrum of openers that already had Fakhar Zaman, Shan Masood and Imam-ul-Haq. And while he first struck a maiden century with the white ball, Abid has been a standout performer in Test whites.
Since his Test debut, only Joe Root has scored more than Abid’s tally of 1,141 runs, with his count of four centuries being the joint second-best alongside Fawad Alam and Dimuth Karunaratne in the same period (Root tops again). Earlier this week, he hit 133 & 91 against Bangladesh, earning the Player of the Match award (his third overall), but more notably, reaching his career-best ranking in the ICC batting charts with a spot at No.20. Among Pakistan batters, Babar Azam is the only other man in the top 20.
A domestic giant, Abid made his first-class debut when Babar was yet to break into the Under-15s, and has scored 8,800 runs @ 41.31 in the format with 25 centuries. A couple of months before his Test debut, he scored an unbeaten 249 in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy, and earlier this year, struck an unbeaten double ton in Harare, Zimbabwe – apart from him, only Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali have a 200-plus score for Pakistan while opening outside Pakistan and UAE this century.
Among Test openers this century with at least 15 Tests, Abid Ali’s average of 49.60 is bettered only by Rohit Sharma, Matthew Hayden, Simon Katich and Virender Sehwag. The start has been sensational, and Abid promises a lot more, but there’s also plenty left to prove.
For starters, it’s the opposition – Abid has only hit one half-century against a team that is not Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, the 8th, 9th and 10th ranked Test sides in the world. His average is considerably inflated by his returns in Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and he averages 27.80 in England, 19.00 in New Zealand and 18.25 in the Caribbean. On tours to England and New Zealand last year (with relatively superior bowling attacks), he crossed 30 just twice in nine innings.
For an old-fashioned grafter who loves to bide his time in the middle, Abid might have the right temperament and technique to prosper overseas, but there’s still more to be seen before a judgement is passed. With Pakistan scheduled to mostly play home Tests for the next year, the wait might extend, but there’s still plenty to celebrate from Abid’s run-filled start to Test cricket. Through sheer volume of runs across a decade, Abid has shown that even in the modern world of innovation and adaptability, old-school hard work can get you places.