Sarfraz proud of Imam and Babar

Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed poses with the trophy after winning the Test against Ireland at The Village, Malahide, Ireland, Tuesday. — Reuters

DUBLIN — Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed praised the character of young batsmen Imamul Haq and Babar Azam after they ensured his decision to enforce the follow-on in Ireland’s inaugural Test did not backfire.

Only three times in the 141-year history of Test cricket have a side won after following-on but when Pakistan were 14 for three, chasing a modest 160 to win on Tuesday’s final day of this stand-alone match, it seemed Ireland might mark their entry into the format with a stunning success.

But 22-year-old left-handed opener Imam, himself making a Test debut, responded to the pressure of the situation with a composed 74 not out — his third fifty of the tour following half-centuries in warm-up matches against Kent and Northamptonshire.

Together with the 23-year-old Babar, who made 59 after being dropped on nine shortly after lunch, he shared a stand of 126 that took Pakistan to the brink of an eventual five-wicket win over a competitive Ireland side.

The way Imam in particular coped under grey skies against some lively pace bowling was an especially heartening sign for Pakistan ahead of its upcoming two-Test series in England, where conditions are likely to be similar to those it encountered at Dublin’s Malahide.

It also meant Pakistan had not failed in a run chase again.

Its previous Test, against Sri Lanka in the UAE in October, saw it beaten after a target of 136 proved beyond it as left-arm spinner Rangana Herath took six wickets for 43 runs.

“Definitely we were worried when we were down 14 for three,” Sarfraz told reporters.

“But it’s really good that these two young players in our team, Imam and Babar, the way they played, they showed their character, they showed their confidence.

“I think the way they played gives great confidence to the team and will help them in the next matches as well,” the wicketkeeper added.

Pakistan was reeling after losing three wickets inside five overs and its skipper feared another morale-sapping loss was at hand.

“You know previously it’s not happened like this,” admitted Sarfraz. — AFP