Azhar Ali, a batsman for Pakistan, claimed after retiring from the format with his 180th and last innings that he worried he might never play a Test on home soil again.
On the third day of the third Test in Karachi, which ended with the tourists at 112-2 in their second inning and needing just 55 more runs to clinch a 3-0 series victory, the 37-year-old received a guard of honour from his teammates after being bowled for a duck by England spinner and former Somerset teammate Jack Leach.
After the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009, Azhar’s side spent years playing their home matches in the United Arab Emirates. His first Test in Pakistan was his 76th, and he marked that game by striking a century against Sri Lanka.
Only Younis Khan (10,099), Javed Miandad (8,832), Inzamam-ul-Haq (8,829), and Mohammad Yousuf (7,530) managed more runs than the 7,142 that former Pakistan Test and ODI captain Azhar amassed over his 97-Test career.
Azhar told Sky Sports Cricket’s Michael Atherton: “At one point, I thought I would never play a Test at home but finally I did that and scored a century as well.
“It was a challenging time, not playing at home and after what happened in England with the spot-fixing [in 2010].
“It wasn’t nice, the next two years were hard on us, but credit to the boys. They have worked hard and brought the fans back and also the cricket has come back to Pakistan.
Azhar: Takes great delight in providing youngsters with opportunities
“There have been a lot of ups and downs and challenges in my career. I feel 300 is a special thing for me [Azhar hit 302 against West Indies in Dubai in 2016] because not many people have done it.Embed from Getty Images
“I am also the only Pakistani to score a double hundred in Australia [at Melbourne in 2016] so that is a big achievement, while another highlight was winning the Champions Trophy in 2017 in the white-ball format. I would take that one day in my whole career.
“Representing your country is an honour in itself, but leading them in both formats I played was a great honour for me. I gave a lot of youngsters a chance and they have managed to excel in their careers so I take huge pride in that.
“It is an exciting time for Pakistan cricket. I wish everyone well and hope they keep working hard and playing exciting cricket. People have also seen in this England series how supportive the fans are.
“You don’t always perform in every format but we have enough talent, enough potential so we have to stay patient. The players will gain experience with time and become a better team.”