At a time when players like Kamran Akmal, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif are making the headlines, a former navy trainee, Habib Bank Limited batsman Fakhar Zaman, has thrust himself into the spotlight with a remarkable hundred. His unbeaten 157 neutralised the hype surrounding the trio and changed the context of the game by handing HBL a hefty lead of 222 runs against Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), with ten wickets in hand at stumps on the third day at the National Stadium in Karachi.
He was born in Katlang - a small town in Mardan District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - before moving to Karachi at the age of 16 to join the Pakistan Navy. He had a year-long schooling at Pakistan Navy School Bahadur in Karachi, where he learned how to survive the seas before parting ways to embrace cricket formally. His team-mates call him fauji (soldier).
The left-handed batsman was the second-highest run-scorer in the Pakistan Cup earlier this year, with 297 runs in five innings at 59.40, including a knock of 115 that set up Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's 151-run win in the final. His ability to bowl left-arm spin makes him a utility player and he is in contention for a place in the national side after appearances for Pakistan A. In the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy season, he has already racked up 650 runs at an average of 54.16.
His hundred gave HBL control of the game after they'd lost the first-innings advantage with WAPDA sneaking in a 42-run lead. Zaman was flawless with this stroke-making, hitting 19 fours and never letting his strike-rate fall below 70. But it was his discipline that stood out.
"The idea was to play it like a one-day innings," Zaman told ESPNcricinfo. "It's really tough to judge the seam [of the pink ball] as it turns black after some time, so I was focusing on the ball fully, which was the main reason why I was playing freely. I am happy that I have contributed to the team and put us in the driving seat. We are optimistic now. There was always belief that and we didn't give up after the first-innings collapse."
Zaman took 12 balls to score his first runs, in the seventh over, before taking off with three boundaries off Waqas Maqsood in the eighth over. The pitch had already started to slow down, but it wasn't really a flat track as much as, in Zaman's words, a "modest" one. After he whirled past his half-century, he took a nasty blow to his left index finger from a rising Mohammad Irfan delivery. But his only worry, he said, was to negotiate the shrewdness of Asif. He faced 14 balls from the medium-pacer and scored 12 runs against him, but was helped along by a drop when he flicked him to Zahid Mansoor at square-leg when he was on 125.
"He is the kind of bowler who threatens with his tight line. He isn't quick but his line is teasing and he doesn't allow you to score runs. The first hour with the new ball was a bit tough but when he went off after three overs, I had more scoring options. I just played my natural game, the way I had when I scored 115 in the Pakistan Cup."
When asked about the prospects of national selection, Zaman shyly pointed out that he would refrain from urging the selectors through the media. "Of course, playing for Pakistan is a dream for every player, but what can I say? From what I understand, they know everything and they've told me to be consistent and keep performing. So I will keep trusting my instincts and my performances and I am sure my number will come."