Pakistan Test captain Azhar Ali has identified a slight technical glitch which kept him away from scoring big runs in Australia.
In an exclusive chat with Cricingif, he was asked if he was getting stuck on the crease in Australia because of an early forward press (after ball release). In response to the question, Azhar said his bat face kept on closing a bit early on the ball, which meant he was cutting across the line of the ball and any sort of movement left him exposed.
“I don’t think you press forward a lot in Australia as you tend to stand a bit upright at the crease. One of the things I would say is that my bat face was closing early,” he said.
He then went on highlight about the starts he was getting at the crease and was hitting the ball well enough. In the first Test at Brisbane, Azhar had faced 104 deliveries and scored 39 runs. His feet were moving well as he nailed a superb straight drive off Mitchell Starc first up and then played couple of drives against Hazlewood and Cummins.
Azhar Ali nails a drive, keep an eye on the width of his base
“If you see the deliveries I faced [barring the dismissals], I was hitting them well enough. I was leaving the ball well and defending solidly. The issue wasn’t really technical.
“Unfortunately, on some deliveries my bat face closed and the one I got at Gabba [first Test, first innings], it was an outstanding delivery. You’d hope not to get an edge on those sort of balls, a lot of batsmen would’ve nicked that one.”
Looking back at his trigger movements, he has that double press with his feet. His back foot goes back and across and the front foot moves slightly across, which widens his base more than shoulder width apart. When playing off the front foot, he then makes one final movement into the ball and plays the relevant shot.
On other times, he has that third movement just after the ball is released which can be an instinctive forward press. If you see him scoring a double hundred against Australia at the MCG in 2016-17, he had that little forward press at times (third movement) just after the ball was released but still went on to score big runs
Against Australia last year, he was withdrawing his left foot out of the way to feel the bat on ball which kind of left him slightly vulnerable. If you look at the dismissal again, he makes that third movement but then withdraws his left foot out of the way which means his base is narrow and he is caught off balance [pushing out miles in front]. Keep an eye on his head as well, not nodding into contact.
Azhar Ali's first innings dismissal at the Gabba (keep an eye on the narrow base)
“In the second innings, my feet didn’t move well enough and my bat face closed. Sometimes you’re playing well but you need a bit of luck as well on balls where your footwork isn’t spot on and the edge flies through the gaps.
If you look at the dismissal in the first innings at Adelaide (pink ball Test), he makes a third movement but then withdraws his foot back, cutting across the ball like a windscreen wiper (as he mentioned himself).
Going across the line of the ball
The last few matches have gone well for him. He scored a hundred against Northern in the final of Quaid-e-Azam trophy and then went onto score a Test hundred against Sri Lanka after a long gap. His movements have been crisp and decisive apart from the first innings dismissal in Karachi Test against Sri Lanka.
“The difference between good and bad form is that you make a mistake but somehow get away with it. Unfortunately, in my earlier innings, I feel like I have been playing well – I have scored runs in the last 3-4 innings. I think I’m middling the ball well but one mistake costs me the wicket. When you’re in good run of form, you make mistakes but then can’t be seen as you survive,” he concluded.