The birth of a new cricketing force

January 17, 2021

Their memorable victory against England in the 1954 Test at The Oval marked Pakistan’s arrival in the Test arena

When the Pakistan cricket team boarded the SS Batory on 12th April 1954, they were still the babes of the Test cricket world. They had put up a creditable performance on their inaugural tour of India beating the home side by an innings in Lucknow and narrowly losing a hard fought series 2-1. This was their second tour and a much more demanding proposition. They were going to spend a summer in England playing in unfamiliar weather conditions and on pitches that were very different to anything at home.

1954 was the wettest summer in Britain for 50 years. In the first three Tests a young and inexperienced Pakistan side struggled in the damp atmosphere and on rain affected wickets. In the first Test at Lords the first three and a half days were washed out and honors were even in a low scoring draw. Pakistan suffered the ignominy of a big innings defeat in the second Test at Trent Bridge and were saved from a similar fate in the third Test at Old Trafford, where rain came to their assistance to rule out over three days of play.

So Pakistan came to the Oval in London for the fourth and final Test of the series. Pakistan’s team for the match was Hanif, Alimuddin, Waqar, Maqsood, Imtiaz, Kardar, Wazir, Fazal, Shujauddin, Zulfiqar and Mahmood Hussain.

England had a strong and well balanced side. Hutton and Simpson were the two openers. The middle order triad was May, Compton and Graveney. Next came wicketkeeper-batsman Evans and then the spinners Wardle and McConnon. The fast bowling was entrusted to Tyson, Statham and Loader with Tyson already being acclaimed as the fastest bowler in the world.

Kardar won the toss and elected to bat. The sky was still overcast after overnight and early morning rain, so the first day’s play began after lunch. Pakistan made a disastrous start. Hanif was a little late on an attempted pull shot in Stathams’s opening over and was out lbw. From the other end, Tyson bowling with express pace, clean bowled Alimuddin and Maqsood with the third and fourth balls of his third over. The score was 10 runs for 3 wickets. Imtiaz survived the hat-trick ball and began to play aggressively in his natural style. Waqar was, however, tentative and uncertain and was soon bowled by Loader for 7, making it 26 for 4 wickets.

Imtiaz and Kardar led a little fight back, but with the score at 51 Imtiaz mistimed a hook on a rising delivery from Tyson and was caught down the leg side by Evans. He had scored 23 off just 24 balls. Wazir joined Kardar but was soon run out when Kardar tried to steal a single to keep the strike and shield Wazir from Tyson. Fazal followed, caught behind the wicket off an inside edge against Loader. The score was now 51 for 7 wickets and Pakistan were in dire straits.

Kardar and Shuja steadied the innings but with the score at 77, Statham had Kardar caught behind for 36. Zulfiqar joined Shuja and took the score to 106 when he was dismissed for a valuable contribution of 16. Mahmood Hussain was the last man in and he struck some lusty blows in a quick cameo of 23 that allowed Pakistan to reach 133 all out. In the remaining few minutes England scored 1 run without loss.

The second day’s play was washed out because of torrential rain. The 3rd day was 14th August, Pakistan’s Independence Day. Play started 45 minutes late while the wicket dried out. Simpson was the first to go when he was caught of Mahmood Hussain with the score at 6. May joined Hutton but both played with uncertainty, especially Hutton who failed to decipher Fazal’s bowling. With England on 26, Hutton misread a Fazal out-swinger for an in-swinger and Imtiaz ran ten yards behind the slips to hold the resulting skier. Compton and May set about repairing the innings and at lunch England were 35 for 2 wickets. Soon after the interval May’s tentative forward push was caught in the gully. His score was 26 and England were 53 for 3. Graveney replaced him and after being beaten five times in a Fazal over, fell to the sixth ball. Next, Evans hooked too soon at a rising ball from Mahmood Hussain and was caught in the deep. England were in trouble at 69 for 5 wickets.

Wardle and Tyson were both snared by Imtiaz, off Fazal’s bowling, to leave England on 106 for 7 wickets. Compton had played with a mixture of aggression and defence, aided by good luck. When he was 31, Fazal dropped him as he ran back to hold a lofted mis-hit over the bowler’s head. On the very next ball Wazir dropped him at long-on and when he was 38 he got yet another life when Wazir again missed a catch in the deep.

Compton eventually fell when Fazal induced an edge off an attempted cover drive and Imtiaz took an easy catch. The tail offered little resistance and England were all out for 130, giving Pakistan a three run lead. Fazal took 6 for 53 from 30 consecutive overs and Mahmood Hussain had 4 for 58.

The wicket was still difficult when Pakistan opened their second innings with Hanif and Shujauddin. Hanif struck Statham for three fours and raced to 19 but Hutton turned to spin and Wardle immediately had Hanif caught in the slips. Shuja and Waqar took the score to 38, when Shuja edged Wardle to the slips as well. Maqsood did not last long either and was caught on the boundary trying an adventurous stroke against Jim McConnon’s off spin. Imtiaz joined Waqar at the crease and a mix up soon led to Waqar being run out with the score at 54. Kardar and Imtiaz played watchfully to take Pakistan to 63 for 4 at the close of play.

On the 4th day, Hutton opened the attack with Tyson, whose pace got the better of Imtiaz, without addition to the overnight score. Alimuddin also departed soon, when he played back to Wardle’s faster arm ball and was trapped lbw. Wazir joined Kardar but after 70 minutes of defiance, the skipper played a half-hearted shot on a Wardle full toss and was out caught and bowled. Fazal was the next to go and Pakistan were teetering at 82 for 8.

They were rescued by a 9th wicket partnership of 58 between Wazir and Zulfiqar. Using a mixture of extreme concentration and tight defence, the pair took the score to 140 when Wardle dismissed Zulfiqar for 34. Mahmood Hussain was the last man in and Wazir now attacked, scoring 18 of the last 24 runs. Mahmood Hussain was dismissed with Pakistan on 164. The last two wickets had doubled the score and Wazir was left undefeated on 42 after a 3 hour vigil that would be instrumental in deciding the fate of this match.

England needed 168 to win. Hutton had become Fazal’s bunny and was again soon caught behind off a Fazal out-swinger. In his autobiography Fazal says that he bowled 27 different types of deliveries to Hutton in the Oval Test. Simpson and May played with relative ease to take the score to 66, when Simpson miscued a delivery from Zulfiqar and was out caught and bowled for 27. Compton joined May and both batted fluently on a wicket that had dried and was easier to play on. With England’s score at 109 for 2, Fazal got the important wicket of May who edged a ball that stood up a bit, to Kardar in the gully.

Hutton seemed keen to finish the match the same evening and sent in Evans next. Fazal bowled him round his legs and when Shuja trapped Graveney lbw, Pakistan were suddenly in with a chance of a shock victory. The main obstacle was Compton and Fazal, bowling with six close in fieldsmen, deceived him with a fast in-cutter that Compton snicked to Imtiaz. 109 for 2 had become 125 for 6 by close of play, and England had their backs to the wall.

The final day’s play was tense. Wardle was dropped by Alimuddin at second slip but Fazal removed Tyson who became Imtiaz’s seventh victim behind the stumps. Shuja was now specially brought in from deep mid-wicket to backward short leg and Fazal bowled an in-cutter that Wardle turned round the corner straight into Shuja’s hands. Loader was caught off Mahmood Hussain at 138 and the last pair needed to make 30 to win. McConnon tried to protect Statham from the strike and went went for a sharp single, after playing the last ball of Fazal’s over into the covers. Hanif ran in, collected the ball single handedly and threw down the stumps at the bowlers end. McConnon was run out and England were all out for 143. Pakistan had won by 24 runs.

England had been “Fazalled”. With 6 for 43 in the second innings, Fazal had match figures of 12 for 99. Pakistan’s name had been truly etched on the cricketing map as a new and emerging force.

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The birth of a new cricketing force