The ‘new’ Wisden Trophy and its Pakistani winners

June 9, 2024

There are ten occasions on which the retrospective winner is from Pakistan. Their names and performances make for interesting reading

The ‘new’ Wisden Trophy and its Pakistani winners


963 was the hundredth year of publication of Wisden’s Almanack, the unquestioned authoritative book of the cricketing world. This coincided with a highly popular tour to England by the West Indies team that summer. The Wisden Trophy was thus instituted to commemorate the almanack’s centenary, and to be awarded to the winners of Test series between West Indies and England. This practice continued for six decades and the trophy was proudly displayed in the Lord’s museum. In 2020, while Covid raged across the world, the ECB (English Cricket Board) decided that from 1922 this trophy would be replaced by the Richards-Botham Trophy.

Subsequent to the ECB’s decision Wisden contacted the MCC and it was agreed that the original trophy would remain at the Lord’s museum and a new one would be commissioned, bearing the same name, but with a different objective. The new trophy would aim to celebrate all Test cricket and not just a single series. The new trophy, or the second Wisden Trophy, would be awarded each year to the cricketer - man or woman - who, in the Almanack’s opinion, produced the outstanding Test performance of the previous calendar year.

The ‘new’ Wisden Trophy and its Pakistani winners

In its 2023 edition Wisden announced the name of the first winner of the new Wisden Trophy, and after much deliberation and debate, also chose the retrospective winners for the years 1877-1939. This year, the 2024 edition of the Almanack not only selected the winner for 2023, but also announced the retrospective winners for all the post World War 2 years from 1946 to the present.

Going through this list there are ten occasions on which the retrospective winner is from Pakistan. Their names and performances make for interesting reading.

1954 Fazal Mahmood Pakistan vs England at The Oval

A young, inexperienced Pakistani team toured England in 1954 for a four Test series in one of the wettest summers on record. The first rain marred Test at Lords was drawn with honours even. Pakistan were then trounced by an innings in the second test at Trent Bridge, and saved from almost certain defeat in the third Test at Old Trafford, by rain which washed out three complete days of play.

The final Test was at the Oval, where a whole day was again lost due to poor weather. In a low scoring match Pakistan made just 133 in their first innings and then bowled England out for only 130 runs with Fazal taking 6 for 53 in thirty overs of superb seam and swing. Pakistan’s second innings yielded 164 runs, setting England a target of 168 for victory. Fazal with his fast medium leg cutters induced an English collapse from 109 for 2 to 143 all out. Against all odds, Pakistan emerged as winners by 24 runs. Fazal had taken 12 wickets for 99 in a superlative bowling display of controlled pace and movement, which was subsequently adjudged by Wisden as the best Test performance of 1954.

1973 Mushtaq
Mohammad Pakistan vs New Zealand at Dunedin

The opening Test of Pakistan’s tour of New Zealand in 1973 was played at Dunedin. During this Test Mushtaq Mohammad became only the second cricketer in Test history to score a double century and take 5 wickets in an innings in the same Test.

Mushtaq scored 201 in Pakistan’s first innings, in a total of 507 for 6 declared, and then took two cheap wickets as New Zealand were bundled out for 156. Following on 351 runs behind, New Zealand could only muster 185 in their second knock. Mushtaq picked up 5 wickets for 49 runs with his leg spin, and Pakistan won comprehensively by an innings and 166 runs. Wisden considered Mushtaq’s all-round contribution as the best Test performance in 1973.

1977 Imran Khan Pakistan vs Australia at Sydney

In January 1977, at Sydney, Imran Khan of Pakistan came of age as a paceman with genuine, express speed. Pakistan had come into this Test trailing 1-0 in the three Test series, and still looking for their first Test win on Australian soil.

They dismissed a strong Aussie batting line-up for only 211 with Imran Khan claiming 6 wickets for 102 in 26 overs of sustained hostility. Pakistan replied with 360 that gave them a first innings lead of 149. Imran was again the destroyer in chief in Australia’s second knock, moving the ball both in the air and off the wicket at searing speed to pick up 6 wickets for just 63 runs. Imran’s brilliant display led Pakistan to a convincing 8 wicket win. Wisden deemed it to be the best Test performance of 1977.

1979 Sarfaraz Nawaz Pakistan vs Australia at Melbourne

The Melbourne Test on Pakistan’s trip down under in 1979 will always be remembered for a surreal bowling performance by the lanky Pakistan pacer Sarfaraz Nawaz.

This was the opening match of a two Test series. Pakistan scored 196 in their first innings with Australia managing 168 in reply. Pakistan then made a solid 353 for 9 declared in their second innings, setting Australia a winning target of 382 runs. At 305 for 3, Australia appeared to be cruising to a comfortable win when Sarfaraz produced one of the most extraordinary bowling spells in Test history. In merely 33 almost unplayable deliveries he captured 7 wickets for just 1 run. Australia slumped to 310 all out, leaving Pakistan victors by 71 runs. Sarfaraz’s final figures for the entire innings were 9 for 86 . This astonishing bowling feat was chosen by Wisden as the best Test cricket performance of 1979.

1982 Imran Khan Pakistan vs India
at Karachi

Imran was at the peak of his bowling form when India toured Pakistan in 1982-83 for a six Test series. In the Karachi Test in late December 1982, Imran decimated India’s vaunted batting powerhouse with a supreme display of electrifying pace and reverse swing. India were shot out for 169 and 197 respectively in their two innings leaving Pakistan as the winners by an innings and 86 runs. Imran took 3 wickets for 19 runs in India’s first innings and 8 for 60 in their second knock, for match figures of 11 wickets for just 79 runs. Nine of Imran’s eleven victims were either bowled or dismissed lbw.

Imran’s awesome bowling achievement was elected by Wisden as the best Test cricket performance of 1982.

1983 Imran Khan Pakistan vs India at Faisalabad

In the very next Test, played at Faisalabad in early January 1983, Imran produced another virtuoso exhibition of devastating fast bowling. For the second Test in succession he scythed through the Indian batting taking 6 for 98 and 5 for 82 in the two Indian innings of 372 and 286 respectively. Of Imran’s match haul of 11 wickets for 180 runs, 9 dismissals were either clean bowled or trapped leg before wicket. Incidentally, Imran also scored a century in Pakistan’s huge first innings score of 652.

Imran’s second successive 11 wicket harvest, came on a placid wicket and set up a 10 wicket victory for Pakistan. It was rated by Wisden as the best Test performance of 1983. In two consecutive Tests on either side of the new year Imran had delivered the best Test cricket display for two contiguous years. This was a totally unprecedented achievement. Imran, in this rich vein of form, was simply peerless.

1987 Abdul Qadir Pakistan vs England at Lahore

Pakistan’s three Test home series against England in 1987 began at Lahore. England won the toss and elected to bat, but were totally at sea against the wily wrist spin of Abdul Qadir who spun his intricate web of leg breaks, at least two different types of googlies, top spinners and flippers, all delivered with multiple variations of angles and trajectories. England limped to 175 all out with Qadir taking 9 wickets for just 56 runs, the best bowling performance ever against an England team. Pakistan replied with 392, securing a first innings lead of 217 runs. There was another dismal batting performance by England in their second knock and the innings folded for a paltry 130. Pakistan won by an innings and 87 runs. Qadir added four more wickets to his first innings tally to end with 13 wickets for 101 runs in the match.

Qadir’s superb exhibition of leg spin wizardry in this match earned selection as the best Test cricket performance of 1987.

1996 Wasim Akram Pakistan vs
Zimbabwe at Sheikhupura

In 1996 Pakistan hosted Zimbabwe for a two Test rubber. The opening Test was played at Sheikhupura, which was staging a Test for the first time in its history.

Zimbabwe batted first and made a healthy 375. Pakistan began well but were soon on the ropes at 183 for 6, when their captain Wasim Akram arrived at the crease and proceeded to enthrall the crowd with a demonstration of exhilarating strokeplay. Wasim handled the bowling with consummate ease, repeatedly coming down the wicket to hit the ball into the stands for monstrous sixes. Pakistan were finally dismissed for 553 with Wasim unbeaten on 257. This included 12 big sixes, the highest number ever in a Test match. He was also involved in a 313 run partnership for the 8th wicket with Saqlain Mushtaq which was a new world record at the time.

Wasim’s phenomenal knock earned Wisden’s vote as the best Test cricket performance of 1996.

2002 Inzamamul Haq Pakistan vs New Zealand at Lahore

In 2002 New Zealand toured Pakistan for a two match Test series that due to security reasons was shortened to a solitary Test at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.

Pakistan, led by Waqar Younis, won the toss and batted first. Their innings was centered around Inzamam ul Haq who put on a class act, completely dominating the Kiwi attack and playing it with contemptuous ease. Pakistan reached a mammoth total of 643, in which Inzamam’s contribution was a masterly 329. Hampered by cramp, and denied a runner by the Kiwi captain, in the later stages of his innings he relied mostly on fours and sixes. Running out of partners, he was finally dismissed when going for his fourth six in five balls. His tally of 329 runs contained 38 boundaries and 9 sixes. In reply, an exhausted and demoralized New Zealand side was shot out for just 73. Following on, the Kiwis showed greater resistance in their second innings but could still only manage to get 246. Pakistan won by the huge margin of an innings and 324 runs.

Inzamam’s epic triple century was nominated by Wisden as the leading Test match performance of 2002.

2005 Younis Khan Pakistan vs India at Bengaluru

Pakistan visited India in 2005 for a three Test rubber. In a high scoring series Pakistan had drawn the first Test at Chandigarh and lost the second one at Kolkata.

In the third encounter at Bengaluru Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat. A partnership of 324 runs between Younis Khan and the skipper Inzamam ul Haq, lifted Pakistan from 7 for 2 to 331 before Inzamam left for an elegant 184. Younis who had been the quieter partner now took front stage and guided Pakistan to a total of 570. His own share was 267, the highest score ever by a visiting batsman in India. He hit 32 fours and a six, and despite the intense heat never let his concentration flag during his eleven and a half hour vigil at the crease. This was his second big century in successive Tests and his highest score in first class cricket.

After dismissing India for 449, Pakistan scored a quick 261 for 2 in their second knock from just 50 overs. Younis was again amongst the runs with a rapid fire unbeaten 84 off only 98 balls. Chasing 383 for a win India succumbed for 214, allowing Pakistan to comfortably level the series.

Younis Khan’s match winning knock in this match won Wisden’s vote for the best Test cricket performance of 2005.

It is a singular honour to be retrospectively recognized by Wisden as the player who produced the best Test cricket performance of the previous calendar year. Among the ten Pakistani winners, on six occasions the award was won for a bowling performance, thrice for a batting performance and once for an all-round display. Imran, a triple winner of this award, is one of only five cricketers in the long history of the game to have won it three times or more. In an interesting twist, Wasim Akram makes the list of winners for his batting rather than the lethal left arm pace and swing accomplishments that he is renowned for.

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

The ‘new’ Wisden Trophy and its Pakistani winners