Wayne Parnell stands back and prods at a length delivery but the familiar bat on ball sound goes missing as the ball whizzes past his hung out bat and crashes into the off-stump. The bowler goes on a celebratory run, spreading his arms akin to Shoaib Akhtar, then fist-pumping into thin air like Brett Lee, and finishing off with arms outstretched into the heavens like the Andrew Flintoff of the 2005 Ashes series.
Yet, he is none of the aforementioned names. The producer of that jaffa of a delivery — as the Australians would call it — was Hasan Ali, the young tearaway from Pakistan who created quite a ruckus in the Champions Trophy with his eye-catching spells and even better celebrations.
Hasan ended the tournament as the 'Player of the Series' and currently sits atop the ICC ODI bowler rankings after becoming the fastest Pakistani to 50 one-day wickets, a record he took away from the great Waqar Younis, whom he idolises.
“I followed Vicky bhai [Waqar] a lot, his aggression, his bowling. In fact, when I watch a spell of his bowling, I get the feeling he had when he was bowling, experience the similar kind of happiness, and I get the confidence. Watching him swing the ball, both conventional and reverse, teaches you a lot”, Hasan revealed in an interview with ESPNCricinfo.
His maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs, against Australia at Sydney in early 2017, was followed by a trouncing at the hands of the world champions in the very next ODI. The young seamer went for 100 runs in nine overs, enduring a horrific, nightmarish outing at Adelaide.
But since the forgettable outing, 2017 has only got rosier for Hasan. He enjoyed a terrific Champions Trophy and continued in the same vein of form so much so that he literally leads the Pakistan pace attack in limited-overs cricket these days. At 23, with the likes of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz still around, that is a humungous feat.
During the ongoing series against the Sri Lankans, Hasan has been in striking form. In the first ODI in Dubai, he cleaned up the visitor's middle-order to hasten a collapse and finished with figures of 3/36 in nine overs. At Abu Dhabi, he produced an economical ten-over spell grabbing just one wicket but two days later picked up a five-for at the very same venue. Before the fourth ODI, Hasan had topped the ODI bowling charts and celebrated that with another spectacular spell of 8.4-0-37-3 at Sharjah.
In fact, in his last eight ODIs, the ravishing seamer has picked up three or more wickets an astonishing seven times. Stretch that further and you would see that out of his 25 ODIs, Hasan has picked up three-plus wickets on 12 occasions at a rate of nearly 50 percent. For a bowler, largely perceived as average at best during his early years, that is a monumental feat.
The credit for his amazing journey thus far goes to his brother who even constructed a tailor-made cement pitch for him to practice on. Hasan reveals the massive role his elder brother played in him developing as an international cricketer.
Unlike the young fast bowlers of the current generation, Hasan is a quick learner. He mastered the art of reverse swing from Azhar Mahmood during the course of his maiden year in international cricket. He recognises that unlike Akhtar or Mohammad Irfan, he does not have an imposing physical structure or towering height and needs to add variations to his repertoire. His strength, however, lies in his consistency. He is neither a massive swinger of the ball nor a hit-the-deck bowler. Yet, he generates enough confusion by landing the ball repeatedly in the same area and frustrating the batsman into making a mistake. So far, the ploy has worked like a charm for him.
Since losing to India in the first match of the Champions Trophy earlier this year, Pakistan haven't lost a single ODI, and the bowlers have played a huge role in this meteoric rise. No team has managed to go beyond 250 against them in the last eight games.
Hasan has been at the forefront of Pakistan's surge, taking 43 wickets in 17 matches at an average of 17.39 and an economy of 5.08, outrageously good by current standards. He is the highest wicket-taker in the format in the year so far, and is well ahead of his competition — Liam Plunkett and Rashid Khan sitting at 36 apiece at the moment.
His three five-wicket hauls underline the kind of influence he has had in the sudden resuscitation Pakistan have gone through this year. From the brink of missing out on the Champions Trophy to winning the event to recording eight successive wins on the trot, Pakistan have been the team of the year in ODIs and Hasan has undoubtedly garnered a lot of attention, more for his bowling than his celebrations.
“I play cricket as if I worship it. I always feel that I should not fall short in my plans. I want to play like a brave man, like a lion," are Hasan's words in the interview with ESPNCricinfo.
True to his words, the young seamer has been bold in the face of danger and has brought immense belief and confidence to this Pakistan bowling attack. From a gully cricketer, the young, sharp fast bowler has risen to No 1 in ODIs during the course of a year and the time has come to acknowledge that Pakistan have unearthed yet another fast bowling sensation. The world can rest assured that they will witness more of the wings spread, fist-pumping celebration in the coming years.
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