It has been over twenty years since a Pakistani batsman scored a century before lunch when playing for his country. In the age of Bazball, as cricket shifts into faster gears, the time is nigh for this feat to be soon re-enacted
One of the most venerated of batting achievements in cricket is scoring a century before lunch. On nine occasions a Pakistani batsman has reached this milestone while playing for the national side. In two instances this happened in a Test match, while the remaining seven occurrences were in first-class games.
1) 19th December 1952: Imtiaz Ahmed .. First-class match
After obtaining Test playing status, Pakistan travelled to India on their inaugural overseas tour. After a tightly fought Test series, the team's final first-class game of the tour was a match against an East Zone side at Jamshedpur from 19th to 21st December. All eyes were focused on the 17 year old Hanif Mohammad, who had so far scored 907 runs on the tour at an astronomical average of over 75 runs per innings, including 4 centuries. A large crowd had turned up to see if Hanif would complete his thousand runs for the tour.
Pakistan was being led in this match by Anwar Hussain as Kardar was taking a break. Anwar won the toss and Pakistan chose to bat. Much to the disappointment of the audience, Hanif was bowled by Bannerjee for only 4 runs, but the crowd had an alternate and unexpected treat in store. With the team score at 27 for 2, Imtiaz Ahmed joined Nazar Mohammad at the crease and put on a consummate display of elegant and compelling stroke play. He completed his century before the lunch break, reaching the landmark in just 81 minutes with 16 hits to the fence. His stand with Nazar added 147 runs in just over an hour and twenty minutes. This was the first century before lunch scored by a Pakistani batsman while wearing national colours. The APP correspondent covering the match said Imtiaz's strokes "carried the power of a heavyweight boxers' punch".
2) 18th November 1960: Hanif
The next instance of a Pakistani batsman scoring a century before lunch while playing for the national team happened on Pakistan's next tour of India in 1960-61. Pakistan's opening match of the tour was against a Combined Indian Universities side at Poona from 18th-20th November. Winning the toss, Pakistan elected to bat. The usually sedate Hanif Mohammad was in an attacking mood and in superlative touch. He put on a master class display of scintillating shot making to reach his hundred well before lunch in just 103 minutes, with the help of 17 fours. Proceeding in the same vein after lunch, Hanif went on to complete his double century in just 208 minutes, and was finally dismissed on the stroke of tea for 222, which included 30 boundaries. This was a view of Hanif that was rarely seen, when his aggressive instinct rather than his defensive technique was on display. Interestingly, Hanif had also begun his previous tour of India in style, scoring a century in each innings of his opening match against North Zone in 1952.
3) 24th August 1962: Ijaz Butt .. First-class match
Pakistan toured England in the summer of 1962 and in a dismal performance were routed 4-0 in the Test series. One the few highlights for Pakistan on this woeful trip, took place in their match against Kent at Canterbury, after the conclusion of the Test series, from 22nd-24th August. Pakistan had batted for almost the entire first day to post a total of 380 for 7 declared. Kent were 265 for 7 in reply when stumps were drawn for the second day. Kent declared their innings at this overnight score in an attempt to infuse some interest into the game with the possibility of an outcome other than a draw. Pakistan began their second knock in the same spirit, with Ijaz Butt, their reserve wicket keeper and opening batsman, scoring a rapid fire 105 before lunch on the final day. He was unbeaten with 129 when Pakistan declared at 239 for 3. Kent did not attempt a steep target of 355 to win in just over 50 overs, and the match petered out into a tame draw. This was Ijaz Butt's swansong and he made just seven further first class appearances before prematurely retiring from the game a few years later.
4) 8th August 1967: Majid Khan ..
On Pakistan's next tour of England, the prodigiously talented Majid Khan played an imperious innings against Glamorgan at Swansea, that drew sumptuous praise from crowds and connoisseurs alike. The three day match was played on 5th, 7h and 8th August. After an even battle for the first innings lead, Pakistan, in their second outing, put Glamorgan's bowling attack to the sword on the third day. Majid scored a century before lunch, reaching three figures in just 61 minutes. By the time of the interval he was unbeaten on 147, compiled in only 89 minutes. His knock was embellished with opulent stroke play and contained 13 sixes, 5 of them in a single over from Roger Davis, of which 4 were off consecutive deliveries. The 13 sixes were a record for a match played in England, and in response to this impressive display of audacious batting, Majid was offered a contract by Glamorgan to play for them in the County Championship.
5) 30th October 1976: Majid Khan .. Test match
The first century before lunch by a Pakistani batsman in a Test match was also scored by Majid Khan. Opening the Pakistan innings with Sadiq in the third Test versus the visiting New Zealand side at Karachi on 30th October 1976, Majid treated the National Stadium crowd to a majestic, almost contemptuous, display of batting against a strong Kiwi pace bowling attack that included Richard Hadlee, Richard Collinge and Lance Cairns. Driving, cutting, hooking and pulling with unperturbed ease, he completed his century before lunch, getting to the hundred mark in 112 minutes, from merely 74 deliveries. His second fifty took just 32 minutes and 33 balls. His innings was a beguiling combination of power and grace and included 18 hits to the fence; 16 fours and 2 big sixes. Majid's knock made him the first batsman in 46 years to score a century before lunch on the opening day of a Test match.
6) 7th July 1982: Mansoor Akhtar .. First-class match
Pakistan toured England in the second half of 1982. In one of the matches leading up to the ODIs and the subsequent Test series, they played Somerset at Taunton from 7th-9th July 1982. Pakistan won the toss and opened with Mohsin Khan and Mansoor Akhtar, whom Imran rated very highly. Justifying his captain's trust, Mansoor scored exactly a hundred runs before lunch. He was finally dismissed for 153, which contained 23 fours and 2 sixes. Mansoor was one of the enigmas of Pakistan cricket. Hugely talented, on his day he could devastate bowling attacks with both an unhurried ease or savage assault, depending upon his mood. Sadly, apart from occasional cameos like this century before lunch, he could never deliver consistently for the national side.
7) 26th July 1982: Zaheer Abbas ..
Less than 3 weeks later, during the same tour, yet another Pakistani batsman produced a century before lunch. This happened on the final day of the three day match between Pakistan and Derbyshire at Chesterfield from 24th to 26th July 1982 and the batsman was the renowned maestro, Zaheer Abbas. In a typically fluent innings, studded with graceful, cultured strokes, Zaheer got to his ton in just 105 minutes, and then accelerated further to reach 148 not out in 130 minutes, before Imran Khan declared the innings closed, to set up a comfortable Pakistani victory. Zaheer hit 20 fours and 2 sixes during this knock. His drives on either side of extra cover were a thing of sheer beauty and class, the bat taking turns between functioning as a scimitar or a magic wand. This was Zaheer at his flowing best, conjuring strokes of wondrous charm and finesse, a true treat to watch.
8) 17th July 1996: Saeed Anwar ..
The Pakistan team touring England in 1996 had an array of gifted players. The resplendent, unconstrained, panache of their batting was perhaps best personified by Saeed Anwar, whose effortless, wristy stroke play square of the wicket on the off-side, was simply sublime, eliciting rapturous accolades from both awe-struck spectators and bedazzled pundits. On the opening day of Pakistan's match against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, scheduled from 17th to 19h July 1996, Saeed Anwar scored a century before lunch, being unbeaten on 111 at the interval. He was finally dismissed for 131, made from 131 balls, including 20 fours and 3 sixes. It was his third century in six innings and displayed his full repertoire of stunning strokes, played with deceptive ease. Saeed, when on song, had few equals in style or class. Some of his strokeplay was truly surreal, defying conventional norms in the manner that only a real genius with exceptional ability can.
9) 11th November 2002: Inzamam-ul-Haq ... Test match*
The last Pakistani batsman to reach a century before lunch, while playing for Pakistan, was Inzamam-ul-Haq, who performed this feat versus Zimbabwe in the first Test of the series at Harare on 11th November 2002. Pakistan led Zimbabwe by 60 runs in the first innings. In their second innings, on the third day of the five day Test, Inzamam ul Haq, scored a hundred before lunch, albeit in a session that was extended to 150 minutes, to make up for an early closure of play the previous day, caused by bad light. Inzamam got to his hundred in 102 balls with 19 fours and was finally dismissed for 112 from just 107 deliveries with 20 boundaries.
This was the second occasion in which a Pakistani batsman had reached a hundred before lunch in a Test match, more than a quarter of a century after the previous one. Inzamam's lazy and languid style, his sangfroid, belied his supreme ability to handle both pace and spin with equal ease. His batting was a fusion of power and poise, a gentle giant who excelled under pressure and always delivered for his country.
A breakdown of this short list of Pakistani batters who have scored a century before lunch while batting for the national side, shows that interestingly only on a single, solitary occasion has this feat been performed on Pakistani home soil. In the remaining eight instances, the venue has been an overseas ground, located in England in five cases, twice in India and once in Zimbabwe.
While Pakistani batsmen, when donning national colours, have managed a century before lunch in only 9 instances, when all first-class games are considered they have reached this milestone on 32 occasions. Zaheer Abbas heads the list with 6 hundreds before lunch, followed closely by Majid Khan with 5 tons. Javed Miandad and Saadat Ali are next in line with 2 centuries each.
It has been over twenty years since a Pakistani batsman scored a century before lunch when playing for his country. In the age of Bazball, as cricket shifts into faster gears, the time is nigh for this feat to be soon re-enacted.
– Dr Salman Faridi is a senior surgeon, poet, sports aficionado and an avid reader with a private collection of over 7000 books.