April 20, 2017

Remember the titans

We celebrate Misbah and Younis' immeasurable careers by picking 15 of their most memorable moments
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Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan are playing the last Tests of their careers in the Caribbean. They made their Test debuts within a year of each other at the turn of the century, and though they have taken vastly different paths since, they find themselves at the very end now more or less in the same place. One will go out arguably as the finest captain Pakistan has had, the other as, arguably, its finest batsman. Over the course of this Test series, we will count down their last days on the field by charting their highs and lows, on and off the field: the great innings, the memorable wins, the deflating losses, the controversies. This is not a definitive or a chronological list of their achievements - careers so rich and textured are rarely captured so easily, and only rarely can be made sense of in order. Instead, these are moments and achievements by which to remember two of the most significant careers Pakistan cricket has seen.

Misbah has captained Pakistan to more Test wins than anyone else © AFP

#12 A leader steps forth

Misbah's defining feature is his calmness, but when he was dropped for the England tour in 2010, after a winless tour of Australia a few months earlier, he was so disenchanted, he nearly burnt his cricket equipment in anger. At 36, with just 19 Tests under his belt, the writing appeared to be on the wall, and Misbah was contemplating retirement. He had only one ambition left: to play the 2011 World Cup.

But what happened thereafter would be fanciful even for a fairy tale. In the aftermath of the Lord's spot-fixing saga that cast a shadow over that 2010 tour, Misbah was secretly offered the captaincy in a small room at the Gaddafi Stadium by the PCB chairman then, Ijaz Butt. A new era for Pakistan cricket began.

Misbah marked his return in style, scoring six successive half-centuries, each one hugely important to the cause of the team. It wasn't to be a short-lived purple patch either, as the ageless Misbah's career just seemed to go on and on. He provided strong, steady leadership after a tumultuous phase for the team, and went on to become the most successful Test captain in Pakistan's history. - Umar Farooq

Grinders Inc: the two at work in Dubai © AFP

#13 Our heroes share a stand in Dubai

Euphoric highs and dire lows might be part and parcel of the game in Pakistan, but the depths the country's cricket had sunk to by the autumn of 2010 were grim, even by their standards. When Misbah took over the reins, his predecessor had been implicated in a spot-fixing scandal that disgraced a nation and that would see him serve time at Her Majesty's pleasure, and his two best bowlers were gone as well.

The prospect of facing a South African team that read more like an all-star line-up didn't raise any Pakistani hopes: Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel were all part of the XI in the first Test of Misbah's captaincy. South Africa set Pakistan an academic 451 to chase with over 100 overs to bowl at them, and the match seemed to be going entirely according to plans and expectations. However, Misbah and Younis came together with over two sessions to go and South Africa needing seven wickets, and showcased the resoluteness that would become their hallmark in the years to come. Seeing off Steyn, Morkel and Kallis one by one, the pair - even then old hands at 36 and 32 - steered the match to a draw that hadn't seemed to be within Pakistan's capabilities to achieve. Fifty-seven overs later, the two were still at the crease, unbeaten on 131 and 76 respectively, and Smith was forced into an early handshake. This was Younis' third consecutive fourth-innings century - as many as Sachin Tendulkar managed throughout his career. - Danyal Rasool

Back and how: Younis soaks up the applause for his hundred Deshakalyan Chowdhury / © AFP

#14 Beware the maestro scorned

A player with an injured body might not be the force he is when fully fit, but perhaps no batsman is as lethal as Younis nursing a bruised ego. Coming into the second Test in Kolkata in 2005 after scoring 9 and 1 in Mohali, Younis was told by Saleem Altaf, the Pakistan team manager, that his place in the side was in jeopardy, and reportedly that he was finished. Younis had scored only one century in his last 15 Tests, and in Pakistan, when a player is dropped, there are no guarantees they will be able to return to the international fold. So Younis in the next two games was playing not just for his place in the side but potentially his career. Far more importantly for him, however, he was playing for his pride. That was obvious enough when he responded with a counterattacking 147 in Kolkata; his none-too-subtle celebration upon reaching three figures was further evidence of how vindicated he felt. His adrenaline carried him through to the third Test, in Bangalore, where he combined with Inzamam-ul-Haq for a gargantuan 324-run partnership to break the backs of the Indian bowlers. By the time he was done, he had accumulated 267 - the highest score by a visiting batsman in India - and set up a famous 168-run win over Pakistan's arch-rivals. That little phase in his career perhaps defined Younis Khan best: angry, resentful, reactive, redeemed. - Danyal Rasool

Misbah frustrated India's bowlers for more than seven hours over two innings in Delhi in 2007 © AFP

#15 Misbah to the rescue, version 1.0

Three Tests v India, 2007-08, 464 runs at 116, two hundreds and one fifty
Misbah has been saving Pakistan since forever, right? Well, India in 2007-08 was where he first started settling into that role. He had just returned to the national side after a long gap and acquired a reputation during the first World T20.

This, however, is where he showed off the full range of his batting. Only once in six innings did he arrive at the crease with Pakistan in anything other than strife. Twice he left with unbeaten hundreds, having taken Pakistan to safety; twice more he fought as hard as he could to leave them safe, only to fail at the end (and note the bizarre, untimely dismissals in Delhi - run out while jumping to avoid the throw, and charging Sourav Ganguly).

The batting style would become familiar - long, contemplative periods of defence interrupted by short, sharp bursts of carefree and innovative hitting. He ended not far short of 500 runs for the series. For a brief period, when Inzamam had left, Mohammad Yousuf was fading and Younis was tormented by the distractions of leadership, Misbah was Pakistan's best batsman across formats. - Osman Samiuddin

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  • Mohammad Zamin on April 23, 2017, 9:32 GMT

    @SamRoy - You are right Misbah does not seem like a great batsman in faster wickets, but in all honesty he has has hardly toured. You have to understand Misbah has not has a very long career. Also Misbah is simply out of form so his recent showing in Australia and New Zealand can be attributed to him just ageing. And in all honesty there are only a handful of SC batsman that can handle bounce (pace is not an issue for Pak, neither is seam or swing). Thats why no SC team has ever won a series in Australia. India also has played seam and swing well in the past hence their victories in England.

  • HarrowXI on April 23, 2017, 9:16 GMT

    1) A Shehzad 2)Hafeez (all rounder)3) Azar ali 4) shafique 5) F alam 6) B Azam 7) Sarfaraz(c) and keeper 8)y ali 9) j khan 10) aamir 11)w riaz

  • Jay Gadsdon on April 23, 2017, 8:57 GMT

    @thetruthteller exactly why sportsman retire earlier than wait till the end. Same things were said about ponting and a few more that went too long. Great team 1st players

  • SamRoy on April 23, 2017, 4:37 GMT

    @Suhail5031 I am a huge admirer of Misbah from the other side of the border. There is nothing but admiration for this thorough gentleman who lifted Pakistan Test Cricket from absolute doldrums and and ensured Pakistan remained a good test team despite their numerous short comings (unable to play at home; unfit cricketers, weak domestic structure, professional cricketers with an amateur attitude, inability to take catches, weak batting techniques, etc). However, though Misbah is an absolute resolute fighter as a batsman and a great player of spin he is not a great batsman on pitches pace and bounce. He has been severely exposed as a batsman both in Aus and SA.

  • mansoor777 on April 22, 2017, 10:06 GMT

    10,000 runs on cards for yunus. This test series is just for the yunus to score 10,000

  • Daaaku on April 22, 2017, 4:22 GMT

    just thanx to misbah n yunis <3 we will always remember u <3

  • SLMaster on April 22, 2017, 0:41 GMT

    Misbah sure....but I think Younis has two more years.

  • Suhail5031 on April 21, 2017, 18:28 GMT

    This is a great example of what Misbah was like in many of his test series, a great test batsman and a true champion. Looking forward to the next posts!

  • Fogu on April 21, 2017, 14:13 GMT

    Both are legends for different reasons. Younis as a batsman. Known for his grit and overcoming many personal challenges. Highest run scorer for PK in all conditions. Misbah for his leadership against all that PK "culture" threw at him. Scandals, politics, fractured team, no home conditions to play in and what not did he have to battle to bring respectability to PK team. Despite all the challenges, he became the winning-est captain of PK team. He and Younis held the batting together, when they didn't have any top order for years. They used to come in at 20/2 or 39/3 consistently and rescue PK. Hats off to both of them.

  • thetruthteller on April 21, 2017, 13:23 GMT

    bah misbah is overrated as a batsman and has been carried by the team for the past few series. his captancy was woeful in the australia series. Good riddance. As for Younus, it is important to build a team for our next big away series in 2018 when pakistan has to play England for 2 tests in Early summer conditions and then Have to tour South Africa. Neither Younus nor misbah are likely to be playing till then, so it is better to to rebuild now against with weak teams such as bangla and sl next .

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