Abdullah Shafique the ‘Record Breaker’ stars in historic chase:
With possibly his finest inning to date, Abdullah Shafique has had an outstanding start to his Test career and has helped Pakistan attempt an impossible chase against Sri Lanka at Galle. Shafique, 22, solidified his growing reputation by scoring an unbeaten 122 on day four, helping his team get within 120 runs of a record-breaking triumph. Pakistan is poised to pull off a dramatic turnaround as they chase 342 to win; at one time on the second day, they were 85-7, and if successful, it would be the second-highest chase in Pakistan’s Test history.
Shafique’s career has been one of swift ascent with little indication of slowing down. He made his debut as a hitter who had long been considered to have great talent. The Covid-19 pandemic played a role in the absence of first-class appearances, but what Pakistan selectors had seen of him was enough to convince them that they had something unique.
Shafique scored 133 in his opening inning for Central Punjab in his first-class debut in 2019. When he was called up to the Pakistan Shaheens team to play two matches against Sri Lanka, it would be almost two years before he would play another first-class match. Shafique also showed promise when playing at a higher level, scoring his second first-class century in the second game. He made the starting lineup for Pakistan’s Test match against Bangladesh three weeks later.
Shafique is more than simply a red-ball prodigy, though. Only the second hitter in first-class and T20 history has scored a century on his first-game appearance. In extraordinary circumstances, he reached his T20 century, scoring 102* off 58 balls to lead his team to a successful chase of 201. Even more impressive was the fact that Shafique had entered the crease in the opening over of the innings at 1-2.
Shafique has so far had nothing but success in his endeavours. As the son of a former domestic cricketer in Pakistan and the nephew of an international cricketer from the UAE, cricket has always run in his family. In his first Test match, he struck two half-centuries before recording his first century against Australia two matches later.
Shafique has played eleven innings at bat for Pakistan in Test cricket and has not yet been struck out for a single run. His current statistics make him look like he’s playing an easy difficulty computer game: six matches, 720 runs, with an average of 80.00. His 96 at Karachi, which enabled Babar Azam to write Pakistan’s famous escape, demonstrated his past propensity for fourth-inning epics. His most recent innings, though, have been when he has been at his best.
Shafique batted confidently as he opened the batting alongside Imam-ul-Haq, who would later be dismissed under questionable conditions, as the two laid the stage for an ambitious fourth innings chase. Shafique dealt in singles while only scoring six boundaries in the 289 balls he faced at the crease by frequently using his feet to counter the spinners’ deliveries. He would reach his century against Maheesh Theekshana’s spin, tucking the ball into the legside to reach the second century in his career in Test cricket.
On a day four Galle pitch, Shafique batted with a confidence that is uncommon, but with to his century, Pakistan enters the final day as the clear favourite, needing just 120 runs more to win with seven wickets still in hand. The aim may or may not be attained. There is no denying, however, that Pakistan has something truly unique in Shafique.