National Stadium Karachi – the fortress of Pakistan cricket

September 27, 2020

Pakistan were undefeated in their first 34 Test at this venue until the winning streak was broken by England in December 2000 in what was a disputed finish

The Indian cricket team was scheduled to tour Pakistan from December 1954. There was great enthusiasm in the public about this visit and large crowds were expected to watch the matches between these arch rivals.

Karachi was the capital of the country but it’s only reasonable cricket ground was the one at the Karachi Gymkhana which unfortunately had very limited seating capacity for the fans. Plans were hastily drawn up to construct a new stadium. A large plot of land measuring 174.5 acres was acquired by the Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak PWD) through the Commissioner Karachi and under the guidance of Mr. Kafiluddin Ahmed, a senior civil engineer from East Pakistan, the stadium was built in record time.

The first match staged at the new stadium was a Test match in February 1955 between India and Pakistan. The stadium had a matting wicket for this match and most of the stands were either open to the skies or covered by temporary marquees. In 1959 the NSK became the first stadium to host an American president for a cricket match when President Eisenhower, along with President Ayub of Pakistan, watched a part of the fourth day’s play between Pakistan and Australia. Incidentally, this Test was also the last at the NSK to be played on a matting wicket. The Australian captain Richie Benaud made a special request to President Ayub for the laying of a turf wicket and Ayub issued the necessary orders on the spot.

Pakistan has an enviable record at the NSK. It was undefeated in its first 34 matches at this venue until the winning streak was broken by England in December 2000. In a disputed finish, the umpire Steve Bucknor allowed the game to go on past sunset. The English captain Nasser Husain is on record as saying that it was pitch black in the middle by the time the match finished with the light so bad that he remembered Pakistani fielders running one way in the outfield while the ball went in the opposite direction. It is highly unlikely that the light metres in vogue today would have allowed the match to continue that late.

As yet, Pakistan have played 42 Tests at the NSK winning 22 and losing only 2, while 18 were drawn. The highest number of Tests at the NSK by a visiting team is eight, by Australia.

The National Stadium has many records to its credit. It has recorded the fewest runs ever scored in a full day’s action, when on the first day of the test against Australia in October 1956, only 95 runs were scored during the whole day. Australia batted first and were all out for 80 after which Pakistan limped to 15 for 2 wickets by the close. The 4th day of the same match was only marginally better with 112 runs being scored, as Australia went from 138 for 6 to 187 all out in their second innings and Pakistan reached 63 for 1. Four of the top six instances of the fewest runs in a full day of Test cricket have been recorded at the NSK.

The October 1956 Test was also unusual for having two rest days in a five day Test, which therefore ran for seven days. The total run aggregate for this match, which Pakistan won by 9 wickets, was 535 runs from 303.1 overs, at a tedious, sleep inducing rate, of 1.76 runs per over.

The highest team score in an innings at the NSK is 765 for 6 declared by Pakistan against Sri Lanka in 2009, which also contained the highest individual innings score at the NSK of 313 by Younis Khan. The lowest team innings score continues to be Australia’s 80 in 1956.

The best ever bowling figures in an innings are Imran’s Khan’s superlative effort of 8 wickets for 60 against India in December 1982, while the best bowling figures for a match are Fazal Mahmood’s 13 wickets for 114 runs in 75 overs against Australia in 1956.

The highest successful run chase at the NSK was in the memorable match against Australia in September 1994, when Inzamam and Mushtaq Ahmed added 57 unbeaten runs for the ninth wicket to take Pakistan to a winning total of 315 for 9. The winning runs came when the Australian wicketkeeper Ian Healy missed an easy stumping against Inzamam and let the ball through for four byes.

The most successful batsman at the ground has been Javed Miandad with a tally of 1393 runs from 17 matches at an average of 58.04, including 3 centuries and 8 fifties. The most successful bowler has been Abdul Qadir with 59 wickets at an average of 26.63, followed by Imran Khan with 51 wickets at an average of 18.39.

78 Test centuries have been scored at the NSK including one triple century and six double centuries. A tally of 5 wickets in an innings has been taken on 50 occasions and there are 8 instances of bowlers taking 10 wickets in a match.

The highest Test partnership recorded at the NSK is a 437 run stand for the 4th wicket in 2009 by the Sri Lankan pair of Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera.

Saleem Yousuf holds the wicket-keeping record for most dismissals in an innings at the NSK with five scalps versus Sri Lanka in 1985. He also has the highest number of dismissals in a match at the NSK, with seven dismissals against Sri Lanka on two occasions, first in 1982 and then again in 1985. Another wicket-keeping achievement is Kamran Akmal’s feat of not conceding a single bye in Sri Lanka’s total of 644 for 7 wickets declared in 2009.

The first ODI at the NSK was staged in November 1980 against the West Indies. Of the 48 ODI’s that have been played here Pakistan has figured in 41, winning 22 and losing 17. Two matches ended without a result. The highest ODI innings total has been 374 for 4 by India against Hong Kong in the Asia Cup of 2008, while the lowest innings score is 115 by Bangladesh in the same tournament. The highest winning run chase in an ODI here was 310 for 4 wickets by India against Sri Lanka in the 2008 Asia Cup.

The highest individual score is a brutal innings of 181 in 125 balls, including 16 fours and 7 sixes, by Viv Richards against Sri Lanka in 1987. The best bowling figures in an ODI at the NSK are 6 wickets for 13 runs by Ajantha Mendis of Sri Lanka versus India in the day/night final of the 2008 Asia Cup.

There have been two partnerships of two hundred runs or more in ODI’s at the NSK. Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara put on 201 for the first wicket for Sri Lanka against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup of 2008, while Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf shared an unbeaten stand of 200 for Pakistan versus Sri Lanka in 2004.

The most successful ODI batsman at the NSK has been Mohammad Yousuf with 817 runs in 17 matches at an average of 58.36 and the most successful bowler is Wasim Akram with 23 wickets from 16 matches, at an average of 22.65.

A total of 31 ODI centuries have been scored at the NSK and there are 18 instances of a bowler taking 4 wickets or more in an innings.

Only four T20 matches have been played at the NSK. The first one was between Pakistan and Bangladesh in April 2008, while the subsequent three were played after a gap of 10 years, against the West Indies, in April 2018. Pakistan has won all four matches.

The top innings score in a T20 at the NSK is 205 for 3 wickets by Pakistan versus the West Indies in 2018 and the lowest score was an innings total of just 60 runs by the West Indians in the same series.

The credit for the highest individual innings in a T20 at the NSK goes to Babar Azam who scored 97 not out against the West Indies in 2018, while the best bowling performance was by Mansoor Amjad who took 3 Bangladeshi wickets for only 3 runs in 2008.

The NSK is the biggest cricket stadium in the country with seating capacity for 34,228 people. It has fifteen enclosures, of which fourteen are named after our national cricketing heroes, while the fifteenth is the VIP’s, Players and Media Enclosure. NSK has been a happy hunting ground for our national team and has even been described as a fortress of Pakistan cricket.

Next week we will focus on another famous Pakistani cricket ground.

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

National Stadium Karachi – the fortress of Pakistan cricket