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Year in Review

Wisden’s Test innings of the year: No.8 – Mohammad Rizwan’s 115

Mohammad Rizwan
by Rohit Sankar 3 minute read

Mohammad Rizwan hit his maiden Test hundred in 2021 and the knock occupies the eighth spot in Wisden’s list of the best Test innings of the year – part of the 2021 in Review series.

Mohammad Rizwan 115* (204)

Pakistan v South Africa
Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi
2nd Test
February 4-8, 2021

Mohammad Rizwan is a tad unlucky in several ways. He found it difficult to get into the Pakistan team until 2019, with Sarfaraz Ahmed all but settled in as the wicketkeeper and skipper. When he finally got his chance and started racking up runs for fun in T20Is, his opening partner, Babar Azam, remained the scene-stealer at the other end for his elegant strokeplay.

In Test cricket, it wasn’t too different. Even after he impressed at Brisbane against a cracking Australia attack, another wicketkeeper batter, from across the border, went on to own the ground and create history just over a year later. He’d battled hard in England and New Zealand too, but the stars just hadn’t completely aligned; in other words he was still waiting for a statement knock, one that put him at the front and centre. And then came Rawalpindi.

Rizwan’s task was far from easy, walking in to bat in the second innings in Rawalpindi. At 63-4, Pakistan’s lead was on three figures but it still needed a significant push. A bigger blow was dealt when Fawad Alam fell soon after, leaving Rizwan to fight his familiar battle with the tail.

He was undeterred. Having held on to make it 129-6 at stumps on day three, Rizwan started day four with Hasan Ali and built solid stands with Yasir Shah and Nauman Ali. After wearing out the Proteas attack in the first session, Rizwan upped the ante in the post-lunch session. Rizwan and Nauman added 97 runs in 25 overs, the partnership tilting the match firmly Pakistan’s way.

It’s perhaps perfect that despite knocking off his maiden Test hundred and taking Pakistan from a precarious position to a victorious one, Rizwan didn’t win the Player of the Match – Hasan did for his ten-wicket haul. But it was the beginning of Rizwan’s rise out of the shadows, the knock that saw him take the cloak off and display his better qualities to the outside world.

A ‘hundred’ is not just another number in cricket; it’s sometimes the booster dose the batter needs to kick something within himself. It was certainly true for Rizwan, with the brilliant ton kicking off an amazing year that saw him finish with record-breaking numbers in T20 cricket.

The No.6 role in Pakistan cricket is almost always associated with Asad Shafiq, the player with the most Test hundreds from the position. Rizwan is still taking baby steps towards filling those big shoes, but this knock in Rawalpindi showed evidently to those within and outside Pakistan cricket that Rizwan is well and truly capable of it.

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