Pakistan’s batting has had many adjectives applied to it. Mercurial, artistic, elegant, enigmatic, rumbustious, regal, inventive, it can be any and all of these at any given time.
Pakistan holds an unique record when it comes to the highest number of centuries scored by a team in a Test series. Whether we consider a longer series of 4 matches or more, a 3 Test series or even a shortened 2 Test series, the honour of compiling the highest number of hundreds in it goes to Pakistan.Series with 4 Tests
Pakistan, Australia and South Africa jointly share the record for the highest number of centuries scored by a side in a series containing four or more Tests. Australia set a record of 12 centuries versus the West Indies when they visited the Caribbean in 1955 for a 5 match encounter. This stood unchallenged for 27 years until Pakistan equaled this number in their 6 Test home series against India in 1982-83 and South Africa followed suit when hosting the West Indies in 2003-04 for a 4 Test contest. This figure of 12 still constitutes the highest number of hundreds racked up by a side during a single Test series of any duration.
Pakistan won their home series against India in 1982-83 by a convincing margin of 3-0, in a face-off that is generally remembered for the magnificent display of fast bowling by Imran Khan who took 40 wickets during it. What is less known is that in this series, Pakistan also equaled the world record for the maximum number of centuries scored by a side during a Test rubber, when their batsmen totaled 12 hundreds in it. Two of these hundreds were made in the drawn 1st Test at Lahore. Zaheer Abbas was in prolific form and stamped his class with a superb knock of 215 from just 254 deliveries in the first innings, including 23 fours and 2 sixes. Mohsin Khan, who had scored 94 in the first innings, was the second Pakistani centurion of the match with an unbeaten 101 in Pakistan’s second outing.
The 2nd Test at Karachi resulted in an innings victory for Pakistan. Their solitary stint at the wicket included two centuries, Zaheer Abbas continuing his brilliant form with a fluent, polished 186 from just 246 deliveries and Mudassar Nazar scoring a determined and more sedate 119. This pair also shared a partnership of 213 runs for the 3rd wicket, helping Pakistan to reach a total of 452, compiled at a brisk scoring rate of 4.12 runs per over.
The 3rd Test at Faisalabad produced yet another Pakistani victory, this time by 10 wickets. Pakistan amassed a mammoth first innings total of 652 inclusive of four centuries, 126 by Javed Miandad, 168 by Zaheer Abbas, 107 by Saleem Malik and 117 by Imran Khan. Zaheer’s runs came at almost a run a ball, as he required just 176 deliveries for his knock of 168, studded with exquisite strokes of rare vintage. Imran, too, amassed his runs at a rapid pace requiring just 121 balls for his 117, which contained 9 fours and 5 sixes. Miandad and Zaheer together put on 287 runs for the 4th wicket, while Saleem and Imran added 207 for the 6th wicket partnership. Pakistan’s scoring rate of 4.57 runs per over, was an anomaly for the time and is still the best ever recorded in Test cricket in a full, completed innings of over 600 runs. By the end of this Test Zaheer had scored 569 runs in just three visits to the crease, at an average of 189.66 runs per innings. His tally was accumulated from just 676 deliveries at a sprightly rate of 84.17 runs per 100 balls.
The 4th Test at Hyderabad provided Pakistan with it’s third consecutive win and witnessed another run glut from their batsmen. Batting first Pakistan put up a huge total of 581 runs for 3 wickets declared which contained double centuries by both Mudassar Nazar and Javed Miandad. Their 3rd wicket partnership of 451 runs, equaled the existing world record for the highest 3rd wicket stand in Test cricket, as well as the highest partnership for any wicket in Test history. This Test was also the occasion of Imran’s infamous declaration, without warning, that left Miandad stranded on 280 not out when it seemed almost inevitable that he would overtake Garry Sober’s world record of 365 for the highest score ever in a Test innings. The other double centurion was Mudassar who scored 234 as Pakistan emerged victorious by an innings. This was the first instance when two Pakistani batsmen scored double centuries in the same innings and the fifth time that this milestone had been reached in Test matches overall.
The 5th Test at Lahore was severely curtailed by inclement weather and even two full innings could not be completed. Pakistan batted first and totaled 323, the main feature of which was an unbeaten 152 from Mudassar Nazar, who opened the batting for Pakistan and carried his bat through the whole innings. In doing so, he emulated his famous father Nazar Mohammad, who had performed a similar feat in Pakistan’s inaugural Test series against India in 1952, during Pakistan’s first ever Test win, at Lucknow, over thirty years earlier. Mudassar’s performance was a singular landmark, the only occasion in the long history of Test cricket where both father and son have carried their bat through an entire completed Test innings, and that too, against the same opponent.
The final Test of the series was again played in Karachi and ended in a draw, with crowd disturbances disrupting play on the fourth afternoon. In their lone innings Pakistan scored 420 for 6 declared, centred around another score of 152 from Mudassar Nazar. This was his third consecutive Test century, and fourth overall in the series. His last three innings had netted him 538 runs, with a series total of 761 runs that is still the highest ever aggregate by a Pakistani batsman in a Test rubber. Though it was officially a 6 Test encounter Pakistan batted in only 8 innings, including one that consisted of merely 13 balls. Therefore, in essentially just 7 innings, Pakistan scored 12 centuries, including 4 by Mudassar Nazar, 3 by Zaheer Abbas, 2 by Javed Miandad, and one each by Mohsin Khan, Saleem Malik and Imran Khan.
Pakistan holds the record for the highest number of centuries ever made in a three Test series. They achieved this distinction by scoring 10 centuries in the home rubber against India in January 2006.
The opening Test of this series, at Lahore, was interrupted by rain on the third and fifth days of the match, so that even two full innings could not be concluded. Pakistan batted first and put up a huge score of 679 runs for 7 declared, at a rate of 4.73 runs per over. There were four century makers in this innings, Younis Khan who was tragically run out for a stroke filled 199 containing 26 fours, Mohammad Yousuf who made a scintillating 176 from just 199 deliveries including 22 fours and 2 sixes, Shahid Afridi with a brutal assault of 108 in 80 balls containing 7 fours and 7 sixes and an equally rapid fire 102 from Kamran Akmal off 81 balls embellished with 11 handsome fours and 2 sixes. The Younis-Yousuf 3rd wicket partnership yielded 309 runs from 330 deliveries, while Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal put together 170 runs in just 129 balls at a strike rate of 131.78 runs per 100 balls.
The 2nd Test ended in another draw. Pakistan had first strike and scored 588 at 4.32 runs per over. This included two centuries, a suave, cultured 119 in 193 balls from Inzamam ul Haq and a belligerent, savagely aggressive 156 in 128 deliveries from Shahid Afridi, with 20 fours and 6 sixes. Pakistan’s second innings total of 490 for 8 declared was again compiled briskly at a run rate of 4.20 runs per over. It contained two further centuries, an entertaining 194 from Younis Khan and a silken 126 from Mohammad Yousuf, with the pair adding 262 runs for the 3rd wicket from only 308 balls. Younis Khan’s second dismissal in the series in the 190’s was one of only four such instances in Test cricket history.The 3rd and final Test was staged at Karachi and resulted in an overwhelming victory for Pakistan by 341 runs. A combative, attacking century by Kamran Akmal in the first innings helped Pakistan to recover from 39 for 6 to 245 all out, and his score of 113 represented 46.12% of the entire team total. In an assured second innings performance, Pakistan mounted a massive tally of 599 runs for 7 declared, which included Faisal Iqbal’s maiden century of 139, and a near miss by Mohammad Yousuf who made 97. Pakistan’s 10 centuries in this series thus consisted of two each from Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal, while one apiece was scored by Inzamam ul Haq and Faisal Iqbal.
Pakistan also holds the world record for the highest number of centuries scored in a two test rubber. While playing against Australia in the UAE in October 2014, Pakistani batsmen managed 9 hundreds in the two Test encounter which Pakistan won 2-0.
The first Test was played at Dubai, and Pakistan scored 454 in their opening innings with hundreds from Younis Khan and Sarfaraz Ahmed. Younis scored a typically busy 106 while Sarfaraz’s 109 was full of innovative, unorthodox strokes and came from just 105 balls with 14 hits to the fence. In their second knock Pakistan declared at 286 runs for the loss of just two wickets, including a flamboyant 131 from Ahmed Shahzad with 10 fours and 4 sixes, and an unbeaten 103, with 6 fours and 2 sixes, from Younis Khan who reached his second century of the match.
The second Test brought more hundreds and a host of further new records into the book. Pakistan again batted first and put up a formidable score of 570 for 6 declared on the board. This run feast was led by a magnificent and creative innings of 213 from Younis Khan, his third consecutive century of the series. Younis added 236 runs for the 3rd wicket with Azhar Ali, who scored a patient 109, and then followed this with a partnership of 181 alongside his team captain Misbah ul Haq, whose share was 101 with 10 fours and a six. After gaining a first innings lead of 309, the Pakistani batsmen simply ran riot in their second outing scoring 296 for 3 declared, with both Azhar and Misbah getting their second centuries of the match. Azhar scored 100 not out and shared an unbeaten partnership of 141 with Misbah whose contribution to the stand was an undefeated 101. Misbah, nicknamed ‘tuk-tuk’ for his normally defensive approach to batting, went completely ballistic in this knock. He reached his fifty in just 21 balls, to set a new world record for the fastest fifty in Test cricket, and then equaled Viv Richards world record for the fastest century in Test history when he got to three figures off just 56 deliveries. While this was the fifth occasion in Test cricket that two different batsmen had both scored a century in each innings of the same Test, it marked the first instance that this feat had been achieved thrice by a single side in any given Test series, a record that even today, still belongs to Pakistan alone. Incidentally, Pakistan’s victory margin of 356 runs was also the highest in their Test history.
Pakistan’s batting has had many adjectives applied to it. Mercurial, artistic, elegant, enigmatic, rumbustious, regal, inventive, it can be any and all of these at any given time. Eager crowds flock to see it, never sure what to expect, a sublime display or a facile collapse, enchanted by the paradoxical certainty of its established unpredictability. When it clicks, though, it is peerless, bringing sheer, undiluted joy to all true followers of the game.
– Dr Salman Faridi is a senior surgeon, poet, sports aficionado and an avid reader with a private collection of over 7000 books.