The recent Test series between Pakistan and Australia will be known for the performance by the visitors winning the series for the first time in Pakistan. However, the series had one more talking point as 22-year old Abdullah Shafique smashed 397 runs including two half-centuries and a hundred.
Pakistan has been well known for producing quality pacers in world cricket. Some of the renowned pacers including Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram have played for them. In the current team, they have the likes of Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, and Hasan Ali. But amongst all this talk of Pakistan producing world-class bowlers, a fresh face Abdullah Shafique was seen rising through the ranks in the series against Australia while opening the innings.
For Pakistan, their openers haven’t always enjoyed a long stay in the team. The think tank seems to keep exploring possible opening combinations for the team in recent years. When Abdullah Shafique earned a maiden call-up replacing Imran Butt for the Test series against Bangladesh in November 2021, he was expected to be another opener who will play only for a brief period. Some of the openers in the past looked solid but no one enjoyed the opportunity to start the proceedings for the team for too long.
Shafique has shown his terrific potential so far ever since his Test debut in Bangladesh. He has amassed 547 runs from five Test matches and nine innings at an average of 68.37 including a century and four half-centuries. The 22-year old started his career in 2019 by playing his first first-class match against Southern Punjab in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. He scored 133 runs in the first innings and the century showed glimpses of his potential. Shafique has 806 runs from eight first-class games at 73.27 with three centuries and four half-centuries. His debut in T20 cricket was also good as he scored an unbeaten 102 for Central Punjab against Southern Punjab in the 2020-21 National T20 Cup. With the century he became the first Pakistan batter to score a ton on his first-class and T20 debut.
Shafique has been doing well in Test cricket but the start to his international career was not very good. He played a knock of 41 runs against Zimbabwe in the debut T20I but next, he registered two ducks in a series against New Zealand. His three matches in the shortest format of the game didn’t fare well and his confidence would have been dented for sure.
Coming back to the squad but this time for Tests against Bangladesh in November 2021 he started his resurgence. Ever since he has donned the whites, he is proving himself to be a future prospect. He has also plundered 909 runs at 32.46 and a strike rate of 130.22 in domestic T20s but his batting style is more suited to red-ball cricket. In the recent series against Australia, he scored 397 runs in three Test matches at 79.40. The pitches might have been flat in the series but he had to face a bowling attack composed of quality bowlers like Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, and Nathan Lyon.
When Pakistan was batting in their second innings of the second Test match, Shafique played an important role along with Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan to help them draw the game. The other two batsmen scored centuries and the right-hander with experience of a few matches scored 96 runs helping the team in pressure situation. He also showed his composure in the third Test when Australia had scored a huge total of 391 runs in the first innings. When Pakistan came to bat in response, he scored 81 runs being the highest-scorer for the team.
Shafique is yet to play in bowler-friendly conditions but he possesses a solid batting technique to counter quality pace bowling. His gameplay has been effective so far, especially while playing straight shots in the ‘V’. Also, he was playing Nathan Lyon very well, hitting some good-looking backfoot strokes. The 22-year old seems to have the potential to be a permanent opener for the side in the next 5-10 years. There will always be a possibility of him being dropped from the squad at the first sign of a rough patch but he can write his own destiny in a unique way being a prolific performer to keep his spot intact in the team.
The team already has two solid batsmen in their ranks with Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan who are going to play for a long time. For Shafique, age is on his side and so he can play for a long period of time for Pakistan with the brilliant technique he has shown so far.