What was expected to be an exciting Test match in Southampton ended as a dull draw due to consistent rainfall that allowed only 134.3 overs across five days, making it the shortest Test in England in 33 years.
While the conditions were gloomy, the shining aspect for Pakistan was Mohammad Rizwan’s gritty 72 off 139 balls as the wicketkeeper-batsman rescued the team from a precarious position (120 for five) to take them to 236.
Rizwan fought for runs and batted dutifully with the tail adding 39 runs in the ninth-wicket partnership with Mohammad Abbas and 21 in the last wicket stand with Naseem Shah.
While his glovework has never been under doubt as he has pouched 20 out of 21 catches in his short eight-Test career, he established his credentials as a reliable middle-order batsman by registering his second Test half-century in testing conditions. He had posted his maiden half-century in the format against Australia in the Brisbane Test during Pakistan’s tour of Australia last year.
What further embellishes the 28-year-old’s knock is the fact that this was the first 50-plus score by a Pakistan wicketkeeper in England in the last 10 Tests, dating back to the summer of 2010.
He also became only the third Pakistan wicketkeeper-batsman to earn a man-of-the-match award in Tests and first since Sarfaraz Ahmed in Galle in 2015. Kamran Akmal has bagged the award twice – both times against India [in Mohali in 2005 and Karachi in 2006].
That Rizwan managed to excel in England, one of the toughest places to bat due to enhanced seam and swing on offer, could be because he had experienced similar conditions at a couple of first-class venues in Pakistan.
“They [conditions in Southampton] were difficult,” Rizwan had said after ending the second day at 60 not out, “but are not too dissimilar to some of the wickets in the north in Pakistan, particularly places like Abbottabad and Peshawar.
“But this was the first time in my career that the ball seamed until 75 overs.”
Rizwan has played 10 first-class matches in Peshawar and five in Abbottabad, including two in the most recent edition of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan’s premier first-class tournament, in which his scores were 176, 128 and 19 not out.
Overall, he has amassed 458 runs at 65.42 in Abbottabad. In his hometown, Peshawar, Rizwan has made 565 runs at 56.50.
Although Rizwan has a long way to go to be in the upper echelons of batting rankings, he can take encouragement from the fact that he has jumped 22 places to 75 in the ICC Men’s Test Player Rankings.
Pakistan will be hopeful that Rizwan carries his form with both bat and gloves to the third Test, which starts from Friday at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton, and helps the team square the series to get 40 points in the ICC World Test Championship. If that happens Pakistan (153 points) will replace New Zealand (180) at the fourth position in the points table.