The infancy years: International cricket in Pakistan from birth to Test status

October 16, 2022

The triumph over the MCC at home in 1951 proved to be a watershed in Pakistan’s cricket history. The Imperial Cricket Conference granted them the status of a Test playing country at its next meeting at Lord’s on 28th July 1952

The infancy years: International cricket in Pakistan from birth to Test status

Following the creation of Pakistan on the 14th of August 1947, first-class cricket quickly arrived in December the same year through an encounter between between Punjab and Sind at the Bagh-e-Jinnah in Lahore. However, it was not until the following winter that Pakistan played its first international match when it hosted the touring West Indian side for a solitary unofficial Test, again at the famous Bagh-e-Jinnah ground in Lahore, from 26th-29th November 1948. This ‘Test’ represented Pakistan’s initiation into international cricket.

The first eleven players to appear in Pakistan colours were the captain Mian Mohammad Saeed, Nazar Mohammad, Imtiaz Ahmed, Maqsood Ahmed, Anwar Hussain, MEZ Ghazali, Aslam Khokhar, Fazal Mahmood, Shujauddin, Mohammad Amin and Munnawar Ali Khan. Lined up against them was a very powerful West Indian side that had just defeated India on Indian soil in a high scoring five Test contest. Led by John Goddard, it included in-form batsmen like Everton Weekes, who had amassed 779 in this series, Clyde Walcott and the legendary George Headley.

The infancy years: International cricket in Pakistan from birth to Test status

Pakistan won the toss and began their international journey on a high note with an opening partnership of 148 between Nazar Mohammad and Imtiaz Ahmed. After Imtiaz’s departure for a personal score of 76, the captain Mian Saeed and Nazar took the score to 197 before Pakistan lost their way and crumbled to 241 all out. Pakistan’s first batting collapse in international cricket saw them lose their last 9 wickets for just 44 runs. Nazar top scored with 87. Gerry Gomez took 4 wickets for 51 for the tourists.

West Indies replied with 308 all out. They were 209 for 8 at one stage when an injured George Headley came in to bat at the number 10 position and rallied his side with a fluent 57 not out in 90 minutes, embellished with 8 boundaries. Pakistan’s most successful bowlers were the paceman Munnawar Ali Khan with 4 for 103 and leg spinner Mohammad Amin, who took 3 for 47.

Pakistan fared better in their second innings with a score of 285 for 6 declared that featured a 205 run partnership for the second wicket between Imtiaz Ahmed and Mian Mohammad Saeed, with both batsmen making hundreds. Imtiaz became Pakistan’s first centurion in international matches. In the remaining 26 overs West Indies gathered 98 for the loss of 1 wicket, and the match petered out into a tame draw.

The infancy years: International cricket in Pakistan from birth to Test status

In April 1949 Pakistan’s cricket team embarked on its first overseas international tour, visiting Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known) for a series of two unofficial Test matches. Led again by Mian Mohammad Saeed the team won both ‘Tests’. In the first match Ceylon were bundled out for just 112 runs in their first innings. The main damage was inflicted by Khan Mohammad with 3 for 36 and the left arm orthodox spinner Usuf Chippa with 3 for 29. Fazal also snared 2 wickets for 13 from 12 miserly overs. Pakistan responded with 399 all out that included 93 from Mian Mohammad Saeed and more fifties from Maqsood Ahmed with 85 and Alimuddin, who contributed 67. The Pakistani pacers Khan Mohammad and Fazal Mahmood then ran through Ceylon’s second innings as the home side were dismissed for just 95. Khan took 4 for 24 while Fazal’s figures were 4 wickets for just 15 runs in 15 overs of sustained hostility. Pakistan were worthy winners by an innings and 192 runs.

Ceylon put up a much improved performance in the second unofficial Test. Batting first they ran up a total of 311 with centuries from their captain, the hugely talented Oxford blue Frederick de Saram, and Conroy Gunasekara, who were involved in a fourth wicket stand of 181. Khan Mohammad was the leading wicket taker with 5 for 72, while Fazal managed 3 for 52. Pakistan replied with a formidable total of 474 for 9 declared, the centerpiece of which was a 268 run partnership for the second wicket between Nazar Mohammad who scored 170, and Murawwat Hussain who made 164. Fazal also chipped in with an unbeaten 65. Ceylon could manage only 210 in their second knock with Fazal taking 3 for 44 to cap an excellent all round performance. Needing only 48 runs to win Pakistan reached their target without any loss for a comprehensive ten wicket win.

Later that year a strong Commonwealth team visited Pakistan and played against the national side in what was billed as an unofficial Test but is better described as an international match. Captained again by Mian Mohammad Saeed, Pakistan made a steady start with an opening stand of 68 between Nazar and Imtiaz, but ran into trouble as soon as the wrist spinning duet of Cecil Pepper and George Tribe came on to bowl. No other batsman apart from Mian Saeed was able to handle the combination of Pepper’s right arm leg spin and googlies and Tribe’s unorthodox left arm spin and chinaman deliveries. Pakistan could only muster 176 to which the Commonwealth replied with 419 for 9 wickets declared, John Holt top scoring with 162. In Pakistan’s second knock Tribe was practically indecipherable, taking 5 wickets for 8 runs in 10 overs of which 8 were maidens. Pakistan’s paltry score of 66 led to a defeat by an innings and 177 runs. The crowd was incensed at this dismal performance and demonstrated in front of the pavilion, raising slogans against the selectors.

Ceylon paid a return visit to Pakistan in March-April 1950 for two unofficial Tests. In the first ‘Test’ at Lahore, Pakistan, with Mian Saeed again at the helm, posted a total of 362 in their first outing. Imtiaz made a belligerent 127 and there were fifties from Maqsood and the debutant Asghar Ali. Ceylon, led by Jayawickreme, found Fazal too difficult to handle and he scythed through their batting, claiming 5 wickets for 56 runs as the Ceylon innings folded for 166. In their second innings Ceylon fared even worse, collapsing for just 151, with 3 wickets falling to Fazal and 4 to the left arm spin of Khalid Qureishi. Pakistan won comfortably by an innings and 45 runs.

The second unofficial Test was staged at the Karachi Gymkhana ground. Ceylon again found it difficult to negotiate Fazal who took 5 for 30 in 25 overs of inscrutable seam, swing and ball control. Though Ceylon restricted Pakistan to only 260 in response, with Zoysa taking 6 for 72, even that proved too much for the Ceylonese batsmen to counter. They were all out in their second innings for only 149. The wreckers in chief this time were Usuf Chippa with 5 wickets and Fazal with 3 more. Pakistan knocked off the 52 runs required to win in under 8 overs, without losing a wicket, for a well-deserved 10 wicket triumph.

An MCC team under Nigel Howard arrived in Pakistan in the winter of 1951 to play two unofficial Tests. Abdul Hafeez Kardar was now Pakistan’s captain and among the new faces in his side was a 16-year-old prodigy called Hanif Mohammad who would open the batting and also function as the team’s wicket keeper. Hanif’s elder brother Wazir was also in the team, as too was the veteran Amir Elahi, who had migrated from India. In the opening ‘Test’ at Lahore, the MCC batted first and made 254 with Jack Robertson scoring 61. Khan Mohammad had 5 wickets for 84 runs and was ably supported by Amir Elahi whose figures were 4 for 97. Pakistan began with an opening stand of 96 between Nazar and Hanif and eventually piled up a total of 428 for 9 wickets declared. Maqsood scored 137 before he was run out, Ghazali made 86 and Nazar 66. The captain Kardar also made a useful contribution of 48. On a placid batting strip the MCC coasted to a second innings score of 368 runs for the loss of just 1 wicket and the match ended in a tame draw. Spooner and Graveney both made undefeated centuries while Robertson, the only batsman to be dismissed, scored 70.

The second unofficial Test was played at Karachi. The MCC could only manage 123 runs in their first innings with Fazal taking 6 wickets for 40. Pakistan also struggled to reach 130 and a first innings lead of merely 7 runs. Imtiaz was their highest scorer with 43, while Statham and Shackleton took 4 wickets apiece. MCC batted with greater assurance in their second knock to score 291, with Tom Graveney compiling a classy 123, full of elegant strokeplay including 18 hits to the fence. Khan Mohammad took 5 wickets for 88. Pakistan’s victory target was 285 and they were 108 for 2 at close of play on the penultimate day of the match, with the teenage Hanif unbeaten on 52. On the final morning they progressed to 144 before the loss of 3 quick wickets, including Hanif’s for 64, left them a little unsteady at 178 for 5. Kardar and the veteran Anwar Hussain now came together for a crucial 6th wicket partnership of 83 runs in which Anwar’s share was 48. Fazal stepped in after Anwar’s dismissal and helped Pakistan to cross the victory line without any further loss. Kardar remained unbeaten with a match winning knock of 50.

This triumph over the MCC proved to be a watershed in Pakistan’s cricket history. The Imperial Cricket Conference granted them the status of a Test playing country at its next meeting at Lord’s on 28th July 1952.

Pakistan thus played a total of 8 international matches before acquiring Test status, 6 on home soil and 2 abroad. Of these, it won 5, lost 1 and drew 2. In the first six games the team was led by Mian Mohammad Saeed while Abdul Hafeez Kardar took over the reins of captaincy for the las two.

The main run scorers for Pakistan during this phase were:

Nazar Mohammad, 536 runs, average 53.60, 1 century and 3 fifties. Highest score 170

Imtiaz Ahmed, 518 runs, average 47.09, 2 centuries and 1 fifty. Highest score 131

Maqsood Ahmed, 452 runs, average 41.09, 1 century and 3 fifties. Highest score 137

Mian Mohammad Saeed, 285 runs, average 47.50, 1 century and 1 fifty. Highest score 105*

Pakistan’s main wicket takers during this period were:

Khan Mohammad, 38 wickets, average 21.18, Fifers 3, best bowling 5 for 72

Fazal Mahmood, 36 wickets, average 15.83, Fifers 2, best bowling 6 for 40

Usuf Chippa, 16 wickets, average 19.75, Fifers 1, best bowling 5 for 53.

Imtiaz performed the wicket-keeping duties for the first 6 games and claimed 23 victims behind the stumps, 18 catches and 5 stumpings. Additionally, he also took a solitary catch in the outfield. Hanif took over the glove work for the last two matches and his tally was a total of 8 dismissals, 7 catches and a single stumping.

Despite being beset by multiple birth handicaps Pakistan joined the elite ranks of Test playing cricket nations within five years of acquiring independence. The nascent side that evolved during these formative years would go on to win the country many laurels, eventually establishing cricket as the unifying national force that it is today.

– Dr Salman Faridi is a senior surgeon, poet, sports aficionado and an avid reader with a private collection of over 7000 books.

The infancy years: International cricket in Pakistan from birth to Test status