Lahore, 20 March 2021: Seasoned batter Azhar Ali’s wait for a Test appearance at his home ground is set to an end as the 37-year-old will feature in the third and final match of the ongoing Benaud-Qadir Trophy, ICC World Test Championship at the headquarters of Pakistan cricket Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore from tomorrow (Monday).
Azhar is perhaps the only cricketer to have had to endure a nearly 12-year wait to make a Test appearance at his home ground. Since making his Test debut against Australia at Lord’s in July 2010, Azhar has featured in 93 Tests amassing 6926 runs at 43.01 (19 centuries) and none of these appearances have come at his home city, Lahore.
The start of Azhar’s career coincided with the unfortunate suspension of international cricket in Pakistan due to security concerns. The top-order batter who has also captained the side in nine Tests, played the first 75 Tests of his career in the UAE or abroad before he got a chance to represent his country in an actual home Test when Sri Lanka took the field for the first of the two Tests against Pakistan in December 2019.
Azhar, has the desire to make the moment a memorable one with a quality performance and more importantly with a win for his team.
“It is a surreal feeling to represent Pakistan in a Test match at my home ground, this is a very emotional moment for me most of my Test career was spent without playing in my own country. First there was a 75 match wait to play in Pakistan and then it took another two years for Lahore to stage a Test so I am incredibly excited and motivated to do really well in front of my family, friends and people of my city who are passionate supporters of cricket.
“When we played Sri Lanka in 2019, we for the first time realised the incredible feeling of receiving the support, love and encouragement of Pakistan fans. We were well received and applauded for our efforts in Rawalpindi and Karachi. Similarly, this series has been a wonderful one for us in terms of the support we have received in the first two Tests.
“I remember well that when I scored a triple century in Dubai, barely 100 people were in the stands and I had no one to raise the bat to. Contrary to that when I scored the century against Australia in the first Test of this series in Rawalpindi, I raised my bat to the entire stadium which was packed by Pakistan supporters and I got the opportunity to soak-in the warm applause and appreciation of the crowd.”
Meanwhile besides Azhar, the in-form Test captain Babar Azam will also be making his first appearance at Lahore which like Azhar is Babar’s home ground.
Azhar hopes both him and Babar can make the Test a truly memorable one with a big partnership.
“It is always a delight to bat with Babar as he is such a wonderful and stylish batter. Both Babar and I would want to make a big contribution and hopefully one that will earn us a win in the match as that is the ultimate goal for all of us.”