Misbah-ul-Haq, in more ways than one, was the hero Pakistan needed but never deserved. In a nation crazy for the speedsters and dashers, like Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi, Misbah was an anti-thesis, the Rock of Gibraltar who built a stable team in his own image.
Misbah, a dasher himself, who almost took Pakistan to glory in the 2007 T20 World Cup before a brain-fade took over, was a late bloomer in whites. But he has probably been Pakistan’s most glorious captain since Imran Khan (although not in the same flamboyant, world-beating beast mode) and one of their best middle order batsmen.
Who knows what could have happened if he had a longer career.
But the 42-year old, named as one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year, a great tribute to his longevity and contribution to cricket, has finally called it quits. The series against West Indies, away from home, where he confesses he wants to win, would be his last.
Misbah has 4951 runs from 126 innings in 72 tests at an average of 45.84 with 10 centuries and 36 half-centuries. That’s a fifty in every three innings or fewer. Here we take a look at his top five Test knocks.
We have left out a few important knocks out like the 133* against India, the 99 against New Zealand in Wellington and the 100 against South Africa at Abu Dhabi in favour of five knocks where Misbah battled tough bowling and tough situations.
#1 161* (351) v India, Kolkata, 2007
Any runs against the arch-rival are twice their value. This epic innings by Misbah showed how he can absorb pressure and exude calmness, the persona that helped Pakistan reach the top of Test rankings at one point, despite a shaky batting lineup.
In the second Test of the India tour at Eden Gardens, India posted a mammoth 616 for 5 in their first innings. Pakistan were already down 0-1 in the series and at one point, they were struggling at 150 for 5. Misbah added 207 for the sixth wicket with Kamran Akmal, who scored 119.
But the now 42-years-old was far from being done. He added 91 for the seventh wicket with Mohammad Sami and remained unbeaten till the end. Pakistan scored 456, saving the follow-on and more importantly, batting out a lot of time.
The match eventually ended in a draw with Younis Khan scoring a century in the second innings where Pakistan survived 77 overs.
#2 101* (57) v Australia, Abu Dhabi, 2014
Misbah is generally one of the most patient batsmen when it comes to style of play. However, against Australia, he showed how flamboyant he could be if he was not holding the team together, one crisis after another. Misbah scored two centuries in this Test but the one in second innings was the one that would be remembered for long.
In the first innings, Misbah was one of the three centurions, pushing Pakistan to 570. After Australia were all out for 261, Pakistan didn’t enforce the follow-on. Instead they chose to bat. Azhar Ali scored a century in 174 balls, but it was Misbah who blazed away at the other end.
His 101* came off just 57 balls and had 11 fours and five sixes. Misbah’s 56-ball century is the second fastest Test century of all time, just two balls behind Brendon McCullum’s 54-ball ton. Pakistan scored 293 in 60.4 overs before declaring. Australia, chasing a target of 603, were all out for 246, suffering one of their biggest defeats by 356 runs.
#3 114 (199) v England, Lord’s, 2016
One of Pakistan’s greatest modern day victories came courtesy a Misbah century in first Test of the England tour at Lord’s. Pakistan were in trouble batting first at 77 for 3, when Misbah walked in. He added 57 for the fourth wicket and then a massive 148 for the fifth wicket with his protege Asad Shafiq, who scored 73.
Misbah’s was the ninth wicket to fall but not before he guided Pakistan to a decent scoreof 339. That proved to be a massive first innings total as England were bundled out for just 272, thanks to a 6-wicket haul for Yasir Shah.
The lead proved to be crucial as Pakistan managed 215 in their second innings. Chasing 283, England were all out for 207, losing the match by 75 runs. Yasir Shah picked up a four-wicket haul and got the Player of the Match award but without Misbah’s tone-setting century in the first innings of a series, this win would not really have been possible.
#4 102 (197) v England, Dubai, 2015
In the second Test between Pakistan and England at Dubai, the visitors were in a dominant position when the hosts were 85 for 3. Misbah was solid once again at No.5, adding 93 for the fourth wicket with Younis Khan who scored a half-century.
The skipper then added 104 for the fifth wicket with Asad Shafiq, who played a lovely hand with 83 runs of his own. Pakistan eventually managed to post 378 batting first. In reply, England were all out for 242, conceding a lead of 136.
Pakistan declared on 354 in their second innings, scoring those in just 95 overs, thanks to Younis Khan’s 118 and Misbah’s 87, the duo adding 141 for the fourth wicket again. England were all out for 312 and Pakistan won the match by 178 runs.
Once again, it was the skipper in the middle who ensured Pakistan had a solid base to put pressure on England.
#5 82 (243) v India, Delhi, 2007
Neither was it a century, nor did it come in a winning cause. Nevertheless, this innings of Misbah should be rated better than most of his centuries. If not for him, this match would have been an embarrassment for Pakistan.
In the first Test against arch-rivals India, Pakistan lost half their side before reaching 100, 83 for 5. Misbah scored 82 in an innings where the next highest score was 30. Thanks to his knock, where he added added 87 for the ninth wicket with Mohammad Sami, Pakistan reached 231.
India were 276 all out in response, which set up the game nicely. Then in the third innings, Pakistan were all out for 247 and Misbah scored 45 batting at No.7, second highest behind Salman Butt’s 67.
India chased down 203 in their final innings with ease, although at 93 for 3, there were some jitters before Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly sealed it with an 88-run partnership.