Pakistan’s opening performance at the 2019 ICC World Cup in England and Wales gave hope to cricket fans in the country. Despite a terrible start in their campaign, the Men in Green recovered to finish on a high beating Bangladesh by 94 runs.
Unfortunately, this was not enough to progress as they lost the semi-final slot to New Zealand owing to a lower net-run-rate. However, there was a glimmer of hope that the cricket-mad nation could finally be on an upward move with standout performances by Babar Azam, Imam ulHaq, Shaheen Shah Afridi, WahabRiaz, Mohammad Amir, and Shadab Khan.
The return of test cricket to Pakistan also heralded better things to come. The team’s win over Sri Lanka and the standout performance by Naseem Shah helped close the year on a high.
Welcoming Test Cricket back Home
For ten years, Pakistan has stayed out in the cold due to an international cricket ban on its soil. This emanated from an attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team bus on its way to the way to the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, in March 2009 causing nine deaths.
Nevertheless, the final part of 2019 was to bring great news with the country hosting the first international test match on home soil in a decade. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced that Sri Lanka would play at Rawalpindi and Karachi for their World Test Championship matches. It was not an ordinary Test series but a celebration of Test Cricket returning home.
Naseem Shah Arrives at the Big Stage
The first test match at Rawalpindi was drawn, setting up an exciting second Test match in Karachi. Pakistan could win to give a befitting welcome to Test cricket or lose to Sri Lanka to mark a painful close to the year.
Looking back, cricket fans in Pakistan had nothing to worry about as the Men in Green were emphatic in their win. It was a match that also marked the arrival of teenager Naseem Shah at the big stage as he bowled the team to a 263-run win in the second and final match in Karachi.
For cricket fans in Australia, Naseem is no stranger as he had already made his Test debut at the Gabba in November 2019. His performance back then hinted to the greatness and it is no wonder the teenager was greatly involved in Pakistan’s emotional win.
Naseem Shah has joined the history books becoming the youngest to take a five-wicket haul at the Test level in 61 years. The teenager was 16 years and 311 days at the time of the second test match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Karachi.
He came close to breaking the record for the youngest bowler to take five wickets set by his compatriot Nasim-ul-Ghani. The record-holder was then 16 years and 303 days when he set the record in 1958 against the West Indies. Fans across the country couldn’t get enough of the cricket scores from the test series as Pakistan showed its superiority.
It was this brilliant performance by the young bowler that helped Pakistan win the first series played at home in 10 years. On the fifth day, the Sri Lankans had a mountain to climb, chasing an improbable 476 for victory after day four. They folded for 212 with their final four batsmen going out without adding a single run to the tally.
The hosts only needed 16 deliveries to claim the last three wickets. Naseem was in the middle of it grabbing two of the wickets last three wickets. The youngster had earlier eliminated Lasith Embuldeniya with the first ball on the fifth day. This set pace for a performance that announced his place in Pakistan’s cricket pecking order.
Other outstanding performances came from Abid Ali who had earlier smashed a century in the first test match. He was one of the four batsmen (Shan Masood (135), Azhar Ali (118), and Babar Azam (100)) who scored centuries in the series. It makes Pakistan only the second team in Test cricket history to have their top four batsmen all hundred an innings.
Is Naseem Shah the Future?
There’s a lot of debate surrounding Naseem Shah after the teenager’s influential performance against Sri Lanka. However, one thing that everyone agrees on is that Naseem has a great future ahead of him and he will become a crucial cog in Pakistan’s team structure. With other greats such as captain Azhar, Babar Azam, and Abid Ali, the youngster can inspire the much need vigor in the ranks of the Men in Blue.