Record-breaking Babar and Rizwan: The world’s best opening pair
Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan have found form when it really matters, putting the Black Caps to the sword in Sydney to make a gettable but tricky chase look straightforward.
The style and scoring rates of Babar and Rizwan have seen them come in for occasional criticism, as has their form throughout the tournament’s group stage, with the captain particularly out of sorts.
But the pair’s numbers in T20I cricket are extraordinary, and they broke yet another record in the course of setting up victory over New Zealand.
The Pakistan openers’ 105-run stand was their third century partnership at a Men’s T20I World Cup, a new record, more than any other pairing in the history of the tournament.
That century stand was also their ninth in all T20Is, comfortably an all-time best, four more than the next-highest pairing of India's KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma, who have five to their name.
Babar and Rizwan are also the highest-scoring partnership in Men’s T20I history by some distance, combining to put 2509 runs on the board when together at the crease for Pakistan in the format – 621 more than any other pair.
And their average as a pairing is now 51.20. For context, only three duos who have passed 1000 partnership runs have an average of over 40, with no others in excess of 50.
“Tonight was very special and a few things came out for us,” Pakistan coach Matthew Hayden said after watching his openers turn on the style.
“Everyone will talk about Babar and Rizwan … the sky is the limit and both of these guys have done it for Pakistan for a number of years.”
Captain Babar Azam had only reached double-figures once in the tournament prior to the semi-final, with a scratchy 25 against Bangladesh in the final group game his only sign of form.
But a dropped catch by Devon Conway off the very first ball he faced gifted the skipper a chance, and he grabbed that opportunity, stroking seven fours en-route to a 30th half-century of his storied T20I career.
With Babar finding form, Pakistan will be a worry for their opponents in the final, and his opening partner looks in decent nick too.
Rizwan has only recently been knocked off the top spot in the MRF Tyres ICC Men's T20I Batting Rankings, and has looked in slightly superior form to his skipper, with a 49 against Netherlands and a 32 versus Bangladesh putting runs to his name in the Super 12 stage.
But his 57 from 43 balls against the Black Caps was comfortably his best contribution of the tournament so far, and Rizwan subsequently explained that his knock was built on aggression up top and then a switch towards an anchor mindset as the innings went on.
“Obviously, me and Babar decided to go after the new ball and the pitch was difficult.
“When we finished the powerplay, the discussion was one of the guys to go deep.”
Babar and Rizwan have rediscovered their mojo at the ideal moment.
With the world’s best-ever opening back pair in form, and with the memory of their match-winning 200-run stand against their final opponents still fresh in the memory, facing England in Sunday’s final at the MCG will hold no fear for Pakistan.
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