Of the highest class

January 1, 2017

Asad Shafiq’s 137 in the first Test against Australia in Brisbane earlier this month should be ranked among the four best innings in the last 16 years

Of the highest class

Asad Shafiq’s 137 in the first Test against Australia in Brisbane earlier this month should, in my opinion, be ranked among the four best innings -- one-day or Test -- in the last 16 years.

He was gritty and fluent (his strike rate was better than the other top order batsmen) at the same time against quality bowling. Most of his runs came in partnerships with the tail-enders which made his effort truly great. From 220 for six, when Sarfraz got out, he took Pakistan to 449 before being dismissed by Mitchell Starc. He added 92 with Mohammad Amir, 66 with Wahab Riaz and 71 with Yasir Shah. You don’t see such innings often.

His innings was quite similar to Inzamam-ul-Haq’s 138 not out against Bangladesh in Multan in 2003. Batting at No 4 Inzamam got no support from the top order batsmen. He won the match with the help of Saqlain Mushtaq, Shabbir Ahmad and Umar Gul. He was fluent too, with a strike rate higher than all other batsmen except that of Salman Butt. It wasn’t a difficult pitch, it was home ground, but the circumstances were tough. Pakistan lost Rashid Latif -- their sixth wicket -- at 132. And the target was 261.

Inzamam rarely ever celebrated his performances with jumps or gestures as most players do. But he did celebrate that win. He showed a lot of emotion when he hit Khaled Mahmud for the match-winning boundary. That truly was a magnificent knock.

Another innings of this class was played by Abdul Razzaq in 2010, against South Africa in Abu Dhabi. Batting at No 7, he scored 109 off just 72 balls and won the match.

Set 287 to win, Pakistan had lost six wickets for 217 with the dismissal of Fawad Alam. And Abdul Razzaq took Pakistan to 289 off the penultimate ball of the game. His partners were Zulqarnain Haider, who scored just six runs off 10 balls, Wahab Riaz who wasted five balls, Saeed Ajmal who scored one, and Shoaib Akhtar who played a dot ball. So out of the 72 runs scored following Fawad’s departure, only seven were scored by other batsmen. And it was not only that he had to chase a target with tail-enders. He had to do it fast too. The required run rate was too high. He hit as many as 10 sixes.

He completed his century with a six but only acknowledged the crowd’s applause with raising his bat a little. He jumped, threw his bat and pumped his fist in the air only after he had struck the winning boundaries.

Another innings of the highest class was played by Kamran Akmal in Mohali back in 2005. Having conceded 204 runs lead, Pakistan had lost six wickets for 243 in their second innings. From that point, Kamran took the score to 427 along with Abdul Razzaq, a much safer position. His feat -- 109 off 154 deliveries -- eventually enabled Pakistan to declare their innings at 496 and setting 293 to win. The match in an honourable draw for Pakistan.

Of the highest class