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When Pakistan paid their first visit to West Indies in the early months of 1958, general expectations were amply realised that the Test series between two sides distinctly stronger in batting than bowling would produce high scoring, particularly in view of the easy nature of the Caribbean pitches.
In point of fact, new records became the feature of the tour. In the first Test at Bridgetown, after following-on 473 behind, Pakistan hit their record score for a Test match of 657 for eight, declared, and saved the game. For this they owed most to the magnificent tenacity of the diminutive Hanif Mohammad, whose 337 fell 28 short of beating Sir Leonard Hutton's Test record score of 364, but Hanif set up a new record for the longest innings in first-class cricket by batting for sixteen hours thirteen minutes, nearly three hours longer than Hutton.
Hutton's record score did not survive the tour either, for Garfield Sobers, the 21-year-old West Indies left-hander, making his first Test century in the third Test at Kingston, hit 365 not out in ten hours eight minutes, three hours twelve minutes less than Hutton took in his innings against Australia at The Oval nearly twenty years previously. Although Pakistan were handicapped by injuries to bowlers, Sobers nevertheless played a brilliant innings.
Yet another entry for the record books was provided by Nasimul Ghani, the Pakistan left-arm slow bowler, who became the youngest Test player at 16 years 248 days when he took the field on the first day of the opening Test.
The tour, however, was far from being a mere paradise for the statisticians, and although Pakistan lost the Test series by 3-1 they always fought hard, even when handicapped by injuries. Nothing was more stirring than that splendid fight-back in the first Test.
Hanif Mohammad, unfortunately, did not maintain his impressive start and later in the tour dropped from opening batsman to a middle of the order position. Saeed Ahmad, a young batsman of attractive, upright style and a hard driver, scored readily and seemed a player with a big future. Wazir Mohammad, brother of Hanif, scored only 39 runs in the first two Tests, and bagged a pair in the second, but he overcame this experience by concentration and determination, and batted most consistently in the remaining matches. Another who improved with the bat as the tour went on was the captain, A. H. Kardar, and Imtiaz Ahmad showed himself an entertaining opening batsman, but Alim-ud-Din failed to find his best form.
For a spin bowler of such youth, Nasimul Ghani possessed remarkable maturity, and comfortably headed the Test bowling averages. He bowled his orthodox left-arm slows to a consistent length and spun the ball considerably. Once again, however, Fazal Mahmood provided the bowling backbone of the side, and the accuracy and variety of his medium-paced deliveries, sustained for long spells on even the easiest pitches, always made him an opponent to be respected. He lost the support of Mahmood Hussain during the third Test when that bowler pulled a thigh muscle and took no further part in the tour.
As Nasimul Ghani broke a thumb during that historic third Test, Kardar went into the game with a fractured finger and Mahmood Hussain broke down, Pakistan sent for a reinforcement in S. F. Rahman (leg-breaks).
Sobers overshadowed everyone else for West Indies. He followed his record score with a century in each innings of the fourth Test, and this superb stroke-making young left-hander seemed certain to be a big figure in Test cricket for many years. Sobers totalled 824 runs in the Tests, only three short of the record for a West Indies player, 827 made by Walcott when Australia visited the Caribbean in 1955. Sobers should do much to fill the gap caused by the loss of Walcott and Weekes, who during the series announced their retirements from Test cricket. Both batted on occasions with all their old mastery.
The splendid batting of Hunte, too, must have been reassuring, for he hit a hundred in his first Test, and during the third played quite admirably for 260, he and Sobers adding 446 for the second wicket, a stand only five runs short of the Test record, 451 by Bradman and Ponsford for Australia against England at The Oval in 1934. Hunte always played his strokes confidently and attractively.
Because of studies in England, F. M. Worrell could not accept the West Indies captaincy, but F. C. M. Alexander, the former Cambridge Blue, did admirably as second choice. A popular and able leader, he kept wicket most capably.
Of the West Indies bowlers Gilchrist, very fast and hostile, did most to unsettle Pakistan, but he did not find his best support until the final Test, when Taylor, from Trinidad, came into the side and bowled impressively. Eric Atkinson, a brother of Denis Atkinson, who toured England in 1957, bowled consistently at medium pace, and Gibbs, with well-flighted off-breaks, succeeded in heading the averages. The youthful Gibbs also fielded splendidly and batted promisingly. Collie Smith, with his off-breaks, shouldered plenty of work in the Tests, but he did not enjoy quite the success expected of him with the bat.
The Pakistanis proved popular with the crowds, who flocked in particularly large numbers to the Test matches, and showed as much enthusiasm for the game as ever.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Barbados v Pakistanis at Bridgetown, Jan 11-15, 1958
Tour Match: Trinidad v Pakistanis at Port of Spain, Jan 29-Feb 1, 1958
Tour Match: Jamaica v Pakistanis at Kingston, Feb 19-22, 1958
Tour Match: British Guiana v Pakistanis at Georgetown, Mar 6-10, 1958