Hafeez Brings Back Pakistan's Hope into Bangladesh Test

Written by  Published by:Pakistan Views Wednesday, 29 April 2015 18:57

Coming into the Test series, Mohammad Hafeez had only scored 34 runs in four innings on the tour. He had only bowled in two of those innings after his action had been cleared by the ICC, but had gone wicketless. On the second day in Khulna, however, Hafeez was at the centerstage of a revival not only his own, but of Pakistan. The team had been blanked out in the limited-overs format and although Pakistan had bowled well on the first day, Bangladesh batsmen had largely been comfortable.

The signs were there, though. Hafeez had found drift and good control with his newly-remodelled action yesterday and had picked up the wicket of Imrul Kayes. On the second day, however, his dismissal of a fluent Soumya Sarkar triggered a Bangladesh collapse that saw the home side lose their last five wickets for 27 runs to be bowled out 20 minutes into the second session. Hafeez, introduced after 19 overs, induced a false shot in his second over, breaking a 62-run partnership between Sarkar and Mushfiqur Rahim that had helped the home side ease past the 300-run mark for only the third time in 17 innings against Pakistan.

His other telling contribution, however, was to come later. In response to Bangladesh's 332, Hafeez made most of excellent batting conditions and led Pakistan's response with his eighth Test century. He may have had a tough last few months, but Hafeez's Test form continued from where he had left it, his previous four innings reading - 24, 197, 101* and 96. He joined an illustrious group - Zaheer Abbas, Mudassar Nazar, Shoaib Mohammad, Mohammad Yousuf (twice) and Younis Khan - of Pakistan batsmen to have hit centuries in three consecutive Tests.

Throughout his innings, Hafeez profited off anything bowled short of length. He greeted Mohammad Shahid, the right-arm seamer, to Test cricket with a back-foot punch through cover in the bowler's first over and picked up boundaries off the spinners in a similar manner. If there was a lesson to be learnt from the initial part of Hafeez's innings, it was to avoid bowling on his pads.

Bangladesh's bowlers, however, regularly fed Hafeez with what he wanted; the spinners frequently pitched it short and the seamers regularly bowled on the pads. All Hafeez had to do was to sit back in the crease and work it around to the leg side. Surprisingly, only towards the end did Bangladesh think of providing cover in the deep. Nine of Hafeez's 12 fours were hit in the region between midwicket and backward square leg. His two sixes, both of Shakib, were pulled over midwicket as well.

The other feature of Hafeez's innings was his rotation of strike. After reaching his fifty with a six, Hafeez only once hit a four before he got into the nineties, and yet maintained a healthy strike rate. However, it took him only two balls to jump from 93 to his century as he whipped consecutive boundaries off Rubel Hossain.

Hafeez's effortless innings allowed his partners to bat comfortably around him. The new opening pair - Pakistan's sixth in last six Tests - of Hafeez and 19-year-old Sami Aslam made smooth progress to bring up the half-century of the partnership in the 12th over. Aslam was dismissed soon after for a 36-ball 20, a review urged by Bangladesh showing he had gloved a turning delivery from Taijul Islam to be caught by Mushfiqur down the leg side.

Azhar survived a couple of scares - he was twice dropped by Mushfiqur, the second chance injuring the wicketkeeper's right hand and forcing him to leave the field - and was unbeaten on 65 after a 177-run unbeaten association with Hafeez. By the end of the day, Pakistan were trailing by 105 runs with nine wickets in hand.

Mohammad Hafeez scored his third century in three Tests © AFP

The Bangladesh batsmen were guilty of throwing their wickets away. Sarkar, who had scored 33 off 55 balls, top-edged an intended hit down the ground off Hafeez towards cover. Asad Shafiq ran in from cover and completed a diving catch at wide mid-off. Eight balls later, Mushfiqur lobbed an easy catch to cover on 32 as he pushed at a short and turning delivery from Yasir Shah. Yasir added the wicket of Taijul in his next over to make it four wickets in the first session for Pakistan, before Wahab cleaned up the tail immediately after lunch.

Pakistan had made a perfect start to the day. Zulfiqar Babar got rid of Shakib in the fourth over of the morning. The batsman charged down the pitch to a flighted delivery but only managed a fine inside edge which was smartly snapped up by a diving Shafiq at leg-slip. Shakib had added only six runs to his overnight score of 19.

But with Mushfiqur intent on soaking up the pressure, Pakistan were made to wait. Compact in his defence against both Wahab and Zulfiqar, Mushfiqur waited 27 balls before hitting his first boundary, a front-foot drive off Wahab. That Bangladesh's scoring-rate remained healthy in the session was, however, due to the urgency that came with Sarkar's arrival. Playing his first Test innings, Sarkar showed over-eagerness at the start; his first shot was an aerial drive that landed short of mid-off and he was lucky that that a mistimed slog off Zulfiqar beat the mid-on fielder. But once his nerves settled, Sarkar had no trouble rotating the strike.

Using his reach, Sarkar laced an elegant cover drive off Zulfiqar to hit his first Test boundary off his 34th delivery. He went on to hit three more fours through the same area. Zulfiqar leaked runs towards the end of his spell, with the second boundary in his ninth over bringing the 50 of the partnership between Mushfiqur and Sarkar. However, once Hafeez ended the stand, there was no looking back for Pakistan

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