Middle-order maestro can power Pakistan charge

The historic debut of a 16-year-old quick has been all the talk in Brisbane but Pakistan captain Azhar Ali believes the series might be the making of another key man.

Teenager Naseem Shah is set to become the youngest to play a Test against Australia when the sides meet at the Gabba from Thursday in the first of a two- match series.

The tearaway paceman will be a handful on a bouncy Gabba wicket, but Azhar says middle-order maestro Babar Azam could star as Pakistan aim to break Australia's 30-match unbeaten Gabba streak.

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Babar breezed to successive half-centuries in Twenty20 games against Australia to begin the tour before plundering 157 against Australia A last week in Perth.

Averaging above 50 in both T20 and 50-over formats, Babar has managed just 35.28 per innings in Test cricket with a solitary hundred from 21 games.

A 99 on Australia's tour of the UAE last year showed his class, while Azhar hoped his recent innings in Perth was a sign of things to come.

"He's playing exceptionally; one of the top batsmen in the world right now and, as a teammate, I love watching him bat," new skipper Azhar said.

"He's ready to take it to the next level."

 

Babar Azam scored a big century against Australia A in Perth. Picture: AAP
Babar Azam scored a big century against Australia A in Perth. Picture: AAP

 

Azhar will prove equally as important for the visitors at the top of the order, with Australian quick Mitchell Starc identifying the pair as the main dangers.

"They're two big keys and did fairly well when here last time as well," Starc said.

"Babar looks like he's seeing them well and (Azhar) Ali is a big part of their group … hopefully, I can keep bringing that one (ball) back and smacking that front pad."