Playing a long innings in any condition requires fitness, skill, temperament and power of concentration and Shoaib Malik’s comeback innings of 245 contained all those ingredients in equal measure.
His form and fitness in limited over games and the injury to Azhar Ali allowed him this golden opportunity to claim stakes to be in the Test side and he grabbed it with both hands. This no doubt goes to his credit that despite being in and out of the matches for various reasons, he displayed fine temperament and technique to compile his double hundred.
Only three centuries at Test level since his debut in 2001 does not speak much of his batting prowess but he has developed himself well, from a bowling all rounder to a dependable batting all rounder, to regain his place in the national side.
Not many manage to keep their nerve or their fitness or form when recalled after such a long absence. Malik, however, did that despite a charmed life when only 7 to keep himself calm and composed to share two very valuable stands, first with Mohammad Hafeez and then with Asad Shafiq, sharing 168 and 148 runs respectively to put Pakistan in a commanding position.
Shafiq’s brilliance with the bat was as much pronounced and noticeable as he drove, cut and pulled the spinners. However, it was undoubtedly Malik’s show all the way. To me, his innings brought back memories of 1971 Edgbaston Test when an unknown Zaheer Abbas stepped in to bat at number three after opener Aftab Gul withdrew as he was hit on the face off a lifting delivery from Allan Ward. The rest is, of course, history as Zaheer emerged and plundered the English bowlers to the tune of 274 runs which still remains the highest ever individual innings by a visiting batsman in his first Test on English soil.
Similarities came to mind here too when Pakistan opener Shan Masood, after being hit on the head off a lifting delivery from Jimmy Anderson on the first day, played on and in walked Malik, a bit unsure about his ability to play Test cricket once again.
Not made in the Zaheer mould, nor possessing the style and elegance that Zaheer personified all those years as Pakistan’s frontline batsman, Malik batted with a cool head and with responsibility to not only rotate the strike but also passing on his confidence to others. If not for the cramps that bothered him in the later stages of his knock, he would have gone on to score more runs for sure.
England, from now on, will obviously be batting under pressure of this massive Pakistan score but also under the hot and humid conditions which may already have drained them out a bit after being in the field for more than a day and half.
Pakistan’s options are not many after Yasir Shah’s injury but possibilities always seem to be there for them in conditions comparatively more in favour for them at the end of the second day’s play.
Published in Dawn, October 15th , 2015