Mohammad Rizwan's fighting knocks - and glove work behind the stumps - kept Pakistan in the game several times in the England series.

‘Best keeper of the summer’: Mohammad Rizwan Pakistan’s silver lining in gloomy series

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Mohammad Rizwan was named Pakistan’s ‘Man of the Series’ for the England Tests. He has also been hailed as the best wicketkeeper to have played in England for a long time.

Mohammad Rizwan's fighting knocks - and glove work behind the stumps - kept Pakistan in the game several times in the England series.
Mohammad Rizwan’s fighting knocks – and glove work behind the stumps – kept Pakistan in the game several times in the England series.

Pakistan endured a gloomy month in England in August, needing help from rain to save the last Test of the already-lost series on Tuesday. However, Mohammad Rizwan was the brightest glimmer of hope for them.

“Mohammad Rizwan has been the wicketkeeper of the summer in terms of pure glove work,” declared Michael Atherton during the 3rd Test.

Nasser Hussain went even further: “Out of all the foreign wicketkeepers that have come to England, I think he’s been the best for a long long time,” he said.

He was picked by England coach Chris Silverwood to have been Pakistan’s ‘Man of the Series’ at the conclusion of the 3rd Test.

Rizwan’s figures from the England were good, but not exceptional. His scores were 9 off 41, 27 off 43, 72 off 139 and 53 off 113. A total of 161 runs at 40.25. And 5 catches and 1 stumping behind the stumps. There was also a missed, though inconsequential stumping, on the final day of the 2nd Test.

‘Best keeper of the summer’

Rizwan’s presence in the series was much more than just numbers though. It was also the fight he brought to the middle. Like when he stood up to the stumps when Mohammad Abbas was bowling.

The likes of Joe Root had been standing well outside their crease to negate the seam movement Abbas was getting, but what Rizwan did rattled them. More often than not, they failed to adjust to going back in their crease after this and lost their wicket.

Rizwan’s keeping was a joy to behold, not because of sensational diving catches but because of the dexterity of his collections.

England, where the ball wobbles even after crossing the batsman, is often said to be the toughest test for keepers. Earlier this summer, Shane Dowrich of the West Indies had to go off with a burst lip after bungling up a routine collection. England’s Jos Buttler, though having redeemed himself with the bat, conceded an atrocious 84 runs in the Test in the 1st Test vs Pakistan.

Asked why he does not talk to bowlers much when keeping, Rizwan said in an online interaction this month: “I am always speaking to them in Pashto – in fact so much that Azhar (Ali) bhai says to me, ‘Please speak in Urdu’, so that he can also understand what I am saying.”

He may not be the most talkative keeper around, but he has been the best behind the stumps since Test cricket’s restart.

A reliable middle order batsman

Rizwan’s keeping credentials were never in doubt though. He has pouched 20 of 21 catches in his short eight-Test career. It was as a middle order batsman that Rizwan had his coming of age in this series.

His 72 in the 2nd Test held Pakistan’s innings together, and his 53 in the 3rd Test was a support act to Azhar Ali’s heroics at the other end. After negotiating Australia’s bowling attack to score his maiden Test 50 last year, he scored consecutive fifties against England’s attack — all three fifties in his career so far having come outside Asia.

In Tests, Rizwan is the first wicketkeeper from Pakistan to score two fifties in a series in England. He also became only the third Pakistan wicketkeeper to earn a Man of the Match award in Tests and first since Sarfaraz Ahmed in 2015. As for the Man of the Series award, he is gthe first since Moin Khan.

Skipper Azhar Ali said Rizwan, the fourth highest-scorer on tour for the visitors, has proved himself as a reliable Number 6 in the batting order.

The fight now moves on to the limited-overs series, with Rizwan and the returning Sarfaraz fighting for the same spot.

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