Pakistan Captain Equals Fastest Test Century

Published: 03rd November 2014 02:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 03rd November 2014 02:00 PM   |  A+A-

PakCaptain Misbah-ul-Haq1AP

The circumstances in which the record was equalled for the fastest Test century - in terms of balls - in Abu Dhabi yesterday (Sunday) were predictable. For a batsman to hit 100 off 56 balls to set up a second-innings -declaration is not surprising in the era of Twenty20.

But the identity of the man who equalled Viv Richards's 28-year-old record was unexpected. It was Pakistan's captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, aged 40, who has not been picked to play a T20 international for Pakistan for the past two-and-a-half years.

Yet who deserves a share of the world record more than the man who has kept Pakistan together while in exile - five long years of exile, since terrorists struck Lahore in March 2009? The Pakistan team might have disintegrated since being forbidden from playing at home, but they can still beat the best in the world on their day - or, more specifically, Australia on day five in Abu Dhabi, which would give them the series 2-0.

Even in normal times Pakistan have had a revolving-door policy towards their captains and coaches, but Misbah has brought continuity and stability when they were needed most.

He has been Test captain, and one-day captain, not only during Pakistan's fight with the Taliban; he also had to clear up the mess after the spot-fixing scandal in the Lord's Test of 2010 under his predecessor, -Salman Butt.

And just as Misbah was putting a good Test team together, he had the rug pulled from underneath him again when his best bowler, the off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, was accused of, and banned for, throwing a couple of months ago. Misbah must have felt that Pakistan were being sent back to square one again.

Yet he has rallied his country once again, to the point where they have dominated Australia to win the first Test, and then set them a target of 602 to win the second, even with a rookie bowling attack. It has taken a rare combination of captaincy and sleight of hand.

Misbah came in at 152 for three yesterday, with Australia on the ropes, in the 44th over of Pakistan's second innings. By the 61st over, he had reached 101 not out from 57 balls, and had added 141 runs with Azhar Ali, who, like his captain, scored a century in each innings. Misbah's effort included 11 fours and five sixes, three of which came from one over from Steve Smith.

Misbah was spared having to face Australia's best bowler, Mitchell Johnson, and cashed in against their most erratic, the occasional leg--spinner Smith, but there were still some reputable bowlers to be -dispatched, such as Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle. And he did.

Anyone who was in Antigua in 1986 when Richards set the world record will be glad that Misbah matched Sir Vivian but did not surpass him. It was Richards's home ground, he had put Antigua on the map, and he was the most charismatic cricketer of his period, if not all time.

It was also a presentable England attack that Richards took apart - no world-beating pace, no extremes of spin, but solid county performers who knew a bit about how to contain - only they could not.

Misbah has earned his share, however, for keeping the flame alive, and perhaps more than that. Pakistan drew a crowd of 11,000 to the stadium for the second day of this Test, far more than would have attended if it had been in Karachi or Lahore. Pakistan are making the most of exile, and even turning the UAE into a home from home, under Misbah.


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