@Ben_Wisden 4 minute read
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan’s record-breaking stand against England was that it didn’t feel all that unexpected.
While there have been criticisms over the pair’s approach and strike rate of late, they have always been capable of the mammoth, match-winning stand. There is a risk to the method – had one of the pair fallen in the middle overs against England, the rest of Pakistan’s batting line-up might have been left with an insurmountable task.
But that only makes it all the more thrilling when it does come off. Four times Babar and Rizwan have put on a stand of 150 or more in a chase. Only six other pairs have done so even worse. They have hit the two highest stands in a T20I chase, and have starred in the two highest 10-wicket chases in history: against England, and against India in the T20 World Cup.
Only united at the top at the end of 2020, the pair have quickly set about breaking every record for a T20I batting pair. They have the most century stands (7) of any partnership, and are one off Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul’s record for the most half-century stands (14).
While the third T20I against England witnessed a rare dual failure, they still checked off one record, becoming the first pair to hit 1,000 runs while chasing, and they are within touching distance of becoming the first duo to hit 2,000 runs while batting together. They currently have 1,946 runs – no other pair has reached 1,750. Those overall run numbers speak to their consistency, with their partnership average of 55.60 a T20I record for batting pairs with at least 750 runs.
Naturally, the pair have outstanding individual numbers, particularly when opening the batting. Rizwan averages an astonishing 66.27 as a T20I opener – no other opener with 500 runs averages even 50 – while Babar’s average of 41.74 as opener is bettered only by Rizwan and England’s Jos Buttler among Full Member openers with 1,000 T20I runs.
Rizwan’s numbers are all the more impressive for two reasons: the rate of his recent improvement, and the fact that he has balanced the dual responsibilities of batting and keeping. Up until his promotion to open in late 2020, Rizwan had batted 15 times, scored at under a run a ball, and averaged 16.81. Now, only Afghanistan’s Mohammad Shahzad – just – and Buttler have more runs than him as a keeper, with his average the best of any keeper with at least 100 runs to his name.
The only blemish on the Babar-Rizwan record is that strike rate. Among the 14 T20I pairs with 1,000 or more runs, their partnership run rate of 8.11 is the third-lowest, ahead only of Ireland’s Andrew Balbirnie and Paul Stirling, and Scotland’s Richie Berrington and Calum Macleod.
Performances like those in the second T20I will do plenty to quieten the doubters, and Rizwan and Babar’s teammates made a point of hitting back at their detractors on social media, while praising the knock. Rizwan and Babar are set on breaking every record they can. And their teammates are perfectly happy to watch them do so.