Test match nostalgia when playing New Zealand

This article was published in Dawn edition of Saturday November 8, 2014 a day before the series started. For a visual look go to e-paper: http://epaper.dawn.com/DetailNews.php?StoryText=08_11_2014_023_006

Test match nostalgia when playing New Zealand

by Sohaib Alvi

New Zealand will go into the history books as the team that cancelled a Pakistan tour mid way in 2002 though for no fault of their own. That decision brings back the memories of the catastrophe that surrounded the bomb blast before the second Test at Karachi, after Inzamam had warmed up for them with a triple century in the first at Lahore.

But other than that Pakistan’s cricketing contests on the Test match front against New Zealand have been more low key than with others. They have been the outside challengers to most of the bigger cricketing nations and not only because of being on the final frontier of land mass; a small country with population the size of Peshawar’s. There has been a lack of team skill and temperament, even as they have had some commendable individual talent over the years, perhaps more so from the 1970s in the shape of Glenn Turner, Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe through Stephen Fleming and Daniel Vettori around the turn of the century and currently Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor.

Not surprisingly therefore Pakistan has their highest win percentage against them in Test matches if Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are to be kept aside, winning almost half the 50 Tests they have played against them since 1955. Indeed, before assuming the more cut throat look of professional cricket the men from New Zealand have been the greater gentlemen of the game.

When they toured Pakistan in late 1955, they lost by an innings in the first Test and then in the second (a game where Imtiaz Ahmed and Waqar Hassan added 308 for the 7th wicket) Pakistan were left to chase just over 100 to win on the fifth evening. And the Kiwis were running to change ends!! They did that to allow fair opportunity to the hosts and Pakistan eventually got through by 6 wickets in an exciting finish against the clock.

Fast forward to the last Test of the 1985 tour to Pakistan and their captain Jeremy Coney stormed out of the commentary box in a post match talk leaving the normally eloquent Iftikhar Ahmed gaping at the camera in severe bemusement. Coney’s rant was against Pakistani umpiring, blaming them for a 2-0 loss. In all that fuming was the threat that they will get a doze of their own medicine in the return tour scheduled a few weeks later. That they doled out in equal measure, mind you with skipper Zaheer Abbas opting out of the trip; that it came after Coney’s threat added to the innuendo.

In one of the earlier series in 1979, it had been Majid Khan who had retorted to what he felt was an element of deception by paceman Richard Hadlee. In one of the more unusual complaints that umpires have received Majid pointed out to the umpires that the particular sound of effort that Hadlee was producing at the time of delivery could be mistaken for a shout of “No” from the umpire! There was talk that it was deliberate to get a batsman to take a risk in the belief he won’t be given out off a no ball when in fact there was none.

For Pakistan nevertheless a contest against New Zealand has been the stage of personal records and triumphs as well, not least by the Mohammad family. It was against New Zealand in 1969 that three brothers — Hanif, Mushtaq and Sadiq —played in the same Test and it is against them that Hanif and son Shoaib scored double hundreds (both 203 not out) 25 years apart, the only father-son duo with double hundred in Tests. The pair also has an additional century against the New Zealanders.

The Mohammad brothers — Mushtaq and Sadiq — flayed their attack on the 1972-73 tour, with Mushtaq getting a double hundred in the second Test at Dunedin (where he and Asif Iqbal (175) added 375) and Sadiq a brilliant 166 in the previous Test. In that first Test, Majid Khan (79 in each innings) became the first Pakistani and the fourth in the world at the time to score identical 50-plus scores in the same Test.

It was New Zealand that bore the brunt of Javed Miandad’s debut. The 19-year old walked in at 44-3, lost Zaheer on 55 and then plastered the tourists for 163 in around four hours. He went from 90 to 102 with three consecutive boundaries off left arm paceman Richard Collinge, each time coming down the pitch to drive him through the covers; Asif Iqbal (166) could only try his best to calm him down. In the third Test at Karachi Miandad became Pakistan’s youngest double centurion in Tests. In the second innings he was stumped for 85 as he selflessly obliged an urging Mushtaq at the other end by flaying at everything to make possible a declaration late on the fourth day.

It was in that Test match that Majid Khan scored the then fastest hundred for Pakistan, a record that stood till last Sunday. It took him just 74 balls with 18 boundaries and two sixes. But he remains ahead of Misbah on the other aspect of the record. It was only the fourth time in Tests history that a batsman had scored a hundred before lunch on the first day of a Test match. It had come almost half a century after Don Bradman had joined fellow Aussies Trumper and Macartney in that feat and stands unmatched close to four decades later.

New Zealand has nevertheless given Pakistan a tougher time over the last twenty years. Till then they had won only three Tests against Pakistan, which included an amazing 0-1 series win in Pakistan itself back in 1969 and that 2-0 riposte that Coney promised at home in 1985. They had been annihilated in the 1990-91 series by Wasim and Waqar and bowled out short of a target of 127 in the lone Test at Hamilton in 1993. They’ve had Pakistan’s measure since then winning at least one game in every three-Test series and have only lost two-Test series with no whitewashes. In fact they drew 1-1 the two-Test series in Pakistan 1996-97.

Pakistan in fact came close to losing the series in 2009-10 in New Zealand when they conceded a 232 run lead in one of the Tests; they eventually drew 1-1. It was the series where Umar Akmal got a brilliant hundred on Test debut.

But Umar Akmal wasn’t the only Pakistani who made his name from New Zealand. Previous to that the tour to New Zealand had thrown up two fast bowlers who were to have different fortunes: In 1985 Javed Miandad insisted on taking a teenager by the name of Wasim Akram who didn’t even own a pair cricket boots but who took 10 wickets in the second Test. Some 15 years later it was Mohammad Sami who took 8 wickets on his Test Debut against New Zealand to announce himself.

A year after Umar Akmal’s heroic entry Pakistan took the shorter series 1-0 and it is to Pakistan’s credit that though they have not played the Kiwis even on neutral grounds since that abandoned tour of 2002, they have held their own. In fact 7 of the last 9 Test series (including two instances of lone Tests) have been played in New Zealand. Pakistan have lost only 3 of the 15 Tests they have contested in New Zealand since early 1993 and only 5 overall in 29 Tests there.

In fact outside New Zealand the Kiwis have beaten Pakistan in just two Tests over some 60 years. Something they will carry on their minds when they step out for the opening Test. For Pakistan the point to note is that Misbahul Haq has been the 15th Pakistani captain against them the 20 times they’ve entered into a series/lone Test. Some things never change in Pakistan except captains.

About Sohaib Alvi

C-Suite Corporate Executive, MBA, Author, Writer, Blogger, Editor, Anchor, TV & Radio Analyst but above all a citizen of the world with a responsibility to live with my personal motto: Have Integrity; Share Knowledge; Create Distinction; Help People.
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