Imam-ul-Haq’s well-made 61 was the highlight for Pakistan as they were dismissed for a meager 168 on the first day of their tour opener against Kent at Canterbury on Saturday.
When a combination of bad light, which had threatened to curtail play all day, and drizzle finally forced an early close, Kent were 39 for one in reply.
If Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed wanted his top-order to experience typical early season English conditions, he could hardly have made a better decision than to bat first in this four-day fixture after winning the toss on an overcast morning.
Unsurprisingly, most of his batsmen found life difficult, even with the floodlights on for most of the innings, and Kent medium-pacer Will Gidman enjoyed the conditions by taking five for 47 as Pakistan were dismissed inside 56 overs. But left-hander Imam, the 22-year-old nephew of Pakistan chief selector and former Test batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq, still struck nine fours in a 111-ball innings.
“It was difficult to be honest, because it was a very rainy day and the conditions favored the bowlers as well,” Imam told AFP as he reflected on his innings. “But we had very good [training] sessions during the last two days. I was just trying to adapt to the conditions as quick as I can and I was trying to play with positive intent—that really helps.”
This was not Imam’s first experience of cricket in England. “I’ve been here a couple of times with the Pakistan Under-19s,” he said. “The conditions are difficult, it’s different, but we are here to win the games and we will try our level best to do something very good.”
Imam came in after opener Azhar Ali (15) was bowled by Gidman going for a booming drive and could only watch as 28 for one became 28 for two when Sami Aslam (13) was lbw to Harry Podmore. But Imam, displaying a sound defense as well as good aggression, then held firm for nearly three hours and an admiring Gidman said: “He looks a good player. He shapes up nicely, his balance was great at the crease. He seems to have the right sort of temperament for English cricket.”
The experienced 33-year-old Gidman added: “The most important thing about batting in England is being able to do the basics for a long period of time. Sometimes, in bowling-friendly conditions like this, you’ve just got to try to stay in your ‘bubble’ for as long as you can. He obviously managed to do that and got his rewards.”
Uncapped at Test level, Imam—who made a century on his one-day international debut against Sri Lanka in October—cover-drove two stylish fours off seamer Calum Haggett. He then advanced down the pitch to drive off-spinner Adam Riley for a boundary shortly before lunch.
A square cut four off Ivan Thomas saw Imam to an 89-ball fifty before the bespectacled batsman was lbw to Gidman.
Hasan Ali added late impetus with two sixes in his 24 before he was last man out.
Kent were soon one for one in reply when Hasan Ali, one of the stars of Pakistan’s one-day Champions Trophy tournament win in Britain last year, had Daniel Bell-Drummond lbw. But Sean Dickson (24 not out) and Kent captain Joe Denly (12 not out) saw the hosts through to the close without further loss.
After this match, Pakistan face Northamptonshire before providing the opposition for Ireland’s inaugural Test, in Malahide, from May 11-15. They then return across the Irish Sea for a two-Test series against England.