There had been even more effusive praise from Michael Hussey after Babar spanked 157 against Australia A in the tour game in Perth. Hussey suggested the 25-year-old was good enough to step up and take his place in the tier reserved for the best of the best.
“I honestly believe this guy can be in the same conversation when we start talking about the best players in the world,” Hussey said on Fox. “We start talking about [Virat] Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Joe Root gets floated around.
“I think if he can start putting together some big hundreds like this in the Test arena, he’s that good … he’s a brilliant, brilliant player.”
Pakistan needed him to live up to that billing on Thursday. After the steadiest of starts from Shan and Azhar, which took them to 0-75, the wheels began to wobble, then in Babar’s case, fall off completely.
They had just lost three wickets in quick succession when Babar came to the crease at 3-77, with Shan (27), Azhar (39) and Haris Sohail (1) all departing with only two runs added to the tally.
The vaunted number five was required to recalibrate against the growing threat of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood and help Pakistan continue to defy Australia’s star-studded attack. He promptly walked out, lost his cool and lost his wicket for one.
Pakistan surrendered their early momentum, although an impressive rearguard 76 from Asad Shafiq added some substance to the scorecard. But the needless wicket was a hammer blow to their hopes of putting the Australians under genuine pressure as they chased an exceedingly rare Test victory here.
Up until the collapse, Shan and Azhar had laid some old-fashioned bedrock as they withstood the early attack of the Australian quicks on a green and receptive Gabba wicket.
It was a slow and steady pace – they were 0-57 at lunch – but appeared to have found their way through the most challenging part of the innings as they resisted the temptation to chase balls not in the hitting zone.
For the first time in history, Australia had failed to take a wicket in the first session of a Gabba Test when they had first use of the ball. And the predictable cries of ‘it must be a road’ had no grounding in fact.
CricViz modelling suggested it was the toughest first morning at the Gabba in their database, assigning it a 9/10 degree of difficulty. Shan and Azhar negated that by offering an attacking shot to just 8 per cent of deliveries, which CricViz suggested was the most conservative first session tactic from any team in the world this year.
The pair made their way to 0-75 before Shan could hold out no longer, nicking one to Smith off Cummins for 27, with Azhar going the very next over at the hands of Hazlewood.
When Haris could add just one, Babar needed to show an understanding of the context of the match and respond accordingly. Instead, he gave fuel to critics that suggest he’s a short-form specialist who lacks the temperament for the five-day game.