Elegant Babar Azam beats off cover drive competition from Virat Kohli

Hendo

Babar Azam fell early on the second day of the second Test between Pakistan and South Africa, depriving TV viewers of the opportunity to see the home side's captain unfurl more examples of a cover drive voted the world's best only two days ago.

Not that it wasn't a close-run thing. In a poll answered by more than 260,000 people on the ICC's Twitter feed, he overcame Virat Kohli by 0.1 per cent. Kane Williamson, who will lead New Zealand in the World Test Championship final, was supported by only 7.1 per cent while Joe Root trailed miserably with just 1.1 per cent.

Babar had resumed on 77 in a rain-affected match in Rawalpindi but was quickly removed by Anrich Nortje without adding to his overnight score, ending a fourth-wicket partnership of 123 with Fawad Alam.

There was compensation for Root in that by being one of the quartet named in the poll, he has semi-official acknowledgement that he is close to a return to the feted Big Four, something heralded by an extraordinary uptick in form in Sri Lanka; his official place in that line-up is currently being held by Marnus Labuschagne while he loiters at No 5.

Before he scored heavily in Galle, he had spent too many months in the ranking wilderness, dipping as low as world No 11 at one point.

While you can judge for yourself Kohli, Azam and Root's pedigree through the offside with all three involved in the concurrent Tests in Chennai and Rawalpindi, the England captain has other reasons to be cheerful

Not one to indulge in the nervous 90s – in his 98th Test, he walloped 228; in his 99th Test, he swept all before him for 186 – he made it to three figures in Chennai in terms of appearances and will hoping to mark that in similar numbers on the scoreboard.

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