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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 January, 2005, 11:59 GMT
Butt shows long-term potential
By Paul Grunill

As Salman Butt lifted his bat to acknowledge applause for his first Test hundred, he must have felt the world was his oyster.

Salman Butt reaches his century
Butt has been Pakistan's biggest plus from the tour to Australia

His innings of 108 against Australia made him only the fourth Pakistan batsman to make a century at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground.

Butt struck 16 boundaries in a further demonstration of the potential which has been nurtured through the junior representative ranks.

Like his boyhood idols Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail, he is a left-handed opener.

Anwar scored more than 4,000 runs in 55 Tests, including 11 centuries, while Sohail made 2,823 runs in 47 appearances for the national team.

And following his performance at the SCG, Pakistan supporters are hoping Butt will prove an enduring presence at the top of the order.

The 20-year-old should, however, take nothing for granted.

Pakistan's selectors have shown little patience to openers in the five years since Sohail played his last Test - and he was on the panel for part of that period.

Since March 2000, 24 different pairings have walked out to the middle to face the new ball for Pakistan.

Naved Ashraf, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Wasim, Wajahtullah Wasti, Imran Nazir, Saeed Anwar, Imran Farhat, Saleem Elahi, Ijaz Ahmed, Abdul Razzaq, Taufeeq Umar, Shadab Kabir, Naved Latif, Mohammad Hafeez, Salman Butt, Yasir Hameed

And the constant chopping and changing at the top of the order might be one reason why the team's results have been so up and down.

In 43 matches since Sohail signed off against Sri Lanka in Peshawar, Pakistan have only managed eight first wicket partnerships of 100 or more, and three of those were in Tests against Bangladesh.

The average opening stand is just 38.4.

The highest, a partnership of 219 between Mohammad Wasim and Imran Nazir against West Indies in Bridgetown, came only two months after Sohail's final Test.

But Wasim soon disappeared from the Test scene and Nazir has only played eight matches - with four different opening partners.

Imran Farhat and Taufeeq Umar have been the most successful pairing in recent years, opening together in eight Tests and producing stands of 109, 134 and 137 in successive innings against South Africa in October 2003.

Their prolific run came only a month after Butt made his Test debut against Bangladesh in Multan, a game in which he and Mohammad Hafeez shared first wicket stands of 27 and 45 as Pakistan scraped home by one wicket.

Salman Butt
Butt has also looked at home in one-day cricket

A loss of form by Taufeeq resulted in Butt's recall for the Australian tour and an unbeaten 115 against a Cricket Australia Chairman's XI saw him reclaim his Test place.

Butt, who captained Pakistan at the 2002 under-19 World Cup, is not overawed by big occasions as proved by his match-winning 108 not out against India in November's Jubilee one-day international in Calcutta.

And his goals for the Australian tour suggested a mature outlook.

"It's a learning curve for me, and I'm ready to face anyone. You get better as you play the best. There is no short cut for experience," Butt said last month.

Glenn McGrath reminded him of that by luring him into an edge to the keeper soon after reaching his century.

If the selectors show patience, however, there should be plenty more good days to come for Butt.

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