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Matching Babar with Smith is almost like matching Smith with Kohli: Usman Khawaja

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Perth, Nov 30 (IANS) Ahead of Australia’s three-match Test series against Pakistan, veteran left-handed opener Usman Khawaja drew parallels in clash of batting titans between Steven Smith and Babar Azam, saying it is like comparing the Sydney-based right-handed batter with the talismanic Virat Kohli.

Azam comes into the series on the back of a poor showing in the 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup in India, which led to him quitting the leadership mantle across all formats. Smith, on the other hand, comes into the series as a member of the Australian team winning the global trophy in Ahmedabad.

"Babar Azam is one of the best batsmen in all three formats. Steve Smith is the greatest batsman of our era. When they both will be playing here in the Benaud-Qadir series, it would be exciting. Matching Babar with Smith is almost like matching Smith with Kohli."

"One of the great things about Babar is he does not score only in Pakistan; he scores runs overseas as well. He has scored a hundred here in the past," said Khawaja to reporters.

Khawaja also acknowledged the challenge posed by Pakistan's fast bowlers in Australian conditions, especially from left-arm speedster Shaheen Shah Afridi. "I think Shaheen Shah and Mitchell Starc, both are very fast bowlers, and both can bowl up to 145. We know Starc can swing the new ball."

"Shaheen has a very good wrist. He definitely swings the ball. When it's overcast in Australian conditions, if a fast bowler is swinging the ball, it makes our job as an opener a bit tough. This is what you rebel for, this is what you play for."

Pakistan have never won a Test series in Australia, but Khawaja feels they aren’t a team to be taken lightly in the 2023-25 World Test Championship cycle. "Pakistan is one of the better teams in the world. They have good batting and always have great fast bowlers."

"Looking at the past teams, I think this is the strongest Pakistan batting lineup coming over. Babar Azam is one of the best batsmen in the world. Imam ul Haq and Abdullah Shafique has scored a lot of runs. I am very excited about this challenge."

Following the opening Test in Perth from December 14-18, Pakistan’s next two Tests in Australia will be at Melbourne Cricket Ground (December 26-30) and Sydney Cricket Ground (January 3-7, 2024).

--IANS

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