Performing through partnerships | Sports

here have been ten instances in the history of Test cricket when an innings has contained four century partnerships. On three of these occasions the batting side has been Pakistan, an accomplishment unmatched by any other Test playing nation.

Pakistan first toured the West Indies in 1958 to play a series of five Tests, each of six days duration. The first Test was staged in Barbados which was renowned for its batting-friendly wicket. West Indies possessed a formidable batting line-up including the likes of Hunte, Kanhai, Sobers, Weekes and Walcott and ran up a first innings total of 579 for 7 declared. Pakistan were shot out for a mere 106, being unable to handle the fierce pace of Gilchrist who took four wickets. Following on 473 runs in arrears few expected Pakistan to put up any resistance and a heavy defeat seemed almost inevitable. Fate, however, had planned differently. Beginning their second innings with Hanif Mohammad and Imtiaz Ahmed an hour before tea on the third day, Pakistan immediately went on the offensive, reaching 79 runs without loss by tea. Imtiaz continued to attack and had scored 91 when he fell to an atrocious umpiring decision. He had come a couple of yards down the wicket to play Gilchrist when he was hit on the thigh by a ball going well down the leg side and was given out lbw. Hanif and Imtiaz had added 152 runs for the first wicket in just 137 minutes and Imtiaz’s knock was embellished with 11 fours. This stand set the tone of resistance for the innings.

Alimuddin joined Hanif at the wicket and the two gathered 112 runs for the second wicket in 165 minutes, with Hanif doing the bulk of the scoring. Alim was eventually caught behind by Gerry Alexander off the bowling of Garry Sobers for a patient knock of 37, based mostly on watchful defence, and containing a solitary four. Pakistan were now 264 runs for 2 wickets. The next batsman to arrive at the crease was the promising Test debutant Saeed Ahmed and along with Hanif he put on 154 runs for the third wicket in 263 minutes, with a mixture of technically solid defence punctuated by elegant stroke play. Saeed made 65 with the help of 6 fours and was dismissed with Pakistan’s score on 418, when he snicked a delivery from Collie Smith to the keeper Gerry Alexander.

Hanif’s elder brother Wazir now came in to bat and the two siblings added 121 invaluable runs for the fourth wicket in 213 minutes of obdurate defence. This was the fourth successive century partnership of the innings and it ended through another controversial umpiring decision. When Wazir’s score was 35, he was adjudged caught behind off Denis Atkinson’s medium pace, on a ball that he had not played. By now Pakistan had reached relative safety, with 539 runs on the board for the loss of only four wickets. It was the first instance, and so far the only one, when the first four wickets in a Test innings had each put on a century partnership. Hanif went to score 337 and Pakistan declared at 657 for 8 wickets to earn a totally unexpected draw.

The main architect behind these century partnerships was Hanif, whose 337 was probably the best rearguard innings in Test history. His stay of 970 minutes at the wicket made it the longest Test innings in terms of time. It lasted 309 overs, the longest in terms of overs faced. It was the first triple century in a team’s second innings and the second by an opener, after Len Hutton’s 364 at the Oval in 1938. Hanif was also the first non English/Australian and the first Asian to reach the triple century mark in a Test.

In the winter of 1989 Pakistan hosted India for a four Test series which was notable for featuring neutral umpires for the first time in Pakistan-India Tests. Two English umpires John Hampshirite and John Holder officiated on Pakistan’s request. After drawn encounters in Karachi and Faisalabad, the two teams met for the 3rd Test at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.

After winning the toss India elected to bat, and in an innings that extended into the third day of play, put up 509 runs in 178.2 overs at a pedestrian rate of 2.85 runs per over. The focal point of their innings was an excellent knock of 218 by Sanjay Manjrekar.

Performing through partnerships

The match already looked headed for a draw when Pakistan went in to bat with Aamer Malik and Rameez Raja as the two openers. They put on exactly 100 runs for the first wicket in just over two and a half hours of entertaining stroke play, before Rameez was dismissed for a well played 63 that contained 9 fours. Aamer was joined by Saleem Malik and between them they added a further 123 runs for the second wicket before Saleem Malik left after scoring 55, bringing Javed Miandad, who was playing his hundredth Test, to the crease. Aamer’s long vigil of four and a half hours at the wicket also came to an end shortly afterwards, when he was dismissed for 113 runs, including 11 fours. Pakistan were 248 for 3 at this stage. This was Aamer’s second consecutive century, following a knock of 117 in the previous Test at Faisalabad. Aamer’s form fell away after this series and he would play only five more Test matches for Pakistan, failing to do justice to the promise with which he had arrived on the first class scene, as one of only three debutants in cricket history to score a century in each innings of their initial first class appearance.

Shoaib Mohammad replaced Aamer and along with Miandad took the score to 416 for 3 by close of play on the fourth day. The next morning they extended the score to 494, when Miandad was finally dismissed for 145, after a stand of 246 runs with Shoaib for the fourth wicket. Miandad became the second batsman, after Colin Cowdrey, to score a century in his 100th Test.

Imran Khan, who now came in to bat, continued the assault on a tiring Indian attack and Pakistan’s score reached 624 before Imran lost his wicket after a quick innings of 66 that contained 4 fours and 2 sixes. Shoaib and Imran had put together 130 runs for the fifth wicket, making it the fourth century partnership of the innings. Shoaib continued to an unbeaten double century before the match concluded with Pakistan on 699 for 5 wickets. This was the highest score by any side in a Test innings in Pakistan until then. The match produced 1208 runs for the loss of just 15 wickets, an average of 80.53 runs per wicket, one of just 17 instances in Test history where the cumulative Test batting average has exceeded 80 runs per dismissal.

Twenty years later in 2009 Pakistan hosted Sri Lanka for a Test series. The opening Test was staged at the National Stadium in Karachi. Sri Lanka batted first after winning the toss and on a placid, featherbed wicket piled on the agony for the Pakistani bowlers, reaching a total of 406 for 3 by the end of the day’s play. Of these 226 runs were scored in an unbeaten fourth wicket partnership between Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Saraweera. The next day brought no relief for Pakistan’s bowling attack as both batsmen reached double centuries. After a partnership of 437 runs, with Sri Lanka’s total at 614, Jayawardene finally fell for 240. Seven balls later, Samaraweera was out at the same total for a personal score of 231. When Sri Lanka declared at 644 for 7, most felt that the batting extravaganza for the match was over. Pakistan, however, had other ideas.

After the early loss of two wickets for 78, the captain Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik came together for a third wicket partnership of 149 runs before Shoaib was run out for 56, with Pakistan’s score at 227 for 3. This was followed by another century partnership between Younis and Misbah ul Haq, who patiently added 130 valuable runs for the fourth wicket taking Pakistan to 357 before Misbah was dismissed for 42. With the arrival of Faisal Iqbal at the wicket, Younis accelerated the tempo of scoring and the two put together 174 runs for the fifth wicket in just 141 minutes. When Faisal fell for 57 after tea on the fourth day, Pakistan were 531 for 5.

Performing through partnerships

Kamran Akmal joined Younis and took the score to 574 for 5 by close of play, with Younis having reached his triple century and batting on 306 not out. There was much anticipation about whether he could beat Lara’s world record score of 400 not out, but sadly it was not to be. Younis was bowled by Fernando for 313 with Pakistan still trailing Sri Lanka at 596 for 6. Yasir Arafat stepped up to the crease, and he and Kamran Akmal went on a run spree, gathering 169 runs in just 129 minutes, with a blistering attack of brutal strokeplay. This was the fourth century partnership of the innings and when Younis declared the innings closed at 765 for 6, Akmal was unbeaten with 158, inclusive of 8 fours and 5 sixes, and Yasir had just completed his fifty. This was Pakistan’s highest ever Test score, and the fifth highest ever by any side in the history of Test cricket. It was also the highest Test score ever recorded on Pakistani soil and the highest Test total ever compiled against Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka started their second outing 121 runs behind and stuttered to 144 for 5, before the match petered out into a tame draw. 1553 runs were scored in this Test for the loss of just 18 wickets, at an average of 86.27 runs per wicket, the seventh highest in Test history. Kamran Akmal’s explosive innings of 158 not out in just 184 minutes of sustained attack, was the fourth 150 plus score in a Test match, a feat that had never been achieved before, nor has been equaled since.

These three instances of four century partnerships in the same Test innings give Pakistan a unique status in the history of Test match partnerships.

The importance of good partnerships in Test cricket cannot be overstated and a team’s success often revolves around them. Big partnerships do not merely add runs to the total, they also serve to demoralize opponents, draining their resolve and sapping them of their physical and mental energy.

Cricket is a team game and partnerships are the edifice on which a team’s performance is built. Unfortunately, in our haste to shower accolades and eulogize individual performances, the importance of partnerships is often overlooked or neglected. In reality though, it is mostly partnerships that give rhythm and momentum to a team, boosting it’s confidence and clearing the path to big totals and success.

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