Pak v Eng, 3rd Test, Sharjah, 4th day November 4, 2015

The Professor graduates with honours

Mohammad Hafeez believes that James Anderson and Stuart Broad produced the best spell of reverse-swing bowling that he has encountered in his career

They call him Professor, not because he is associated with any educational institution, but because he talks a lot, argues a lot and thinks a lot. He has an unorthodox, analytical mind and isn't a quiet person. He has theories; he has ideas, he has suggestions and he has a temperament that disagrees with everything in order to forge and put his own case. He is Mohammad Hafeez.

Hafeez's ninth Test hundred was also his first against England, a landmark he had threatened on three previous occasions, dating back to his 95 at The Oval in the infamous abandoned Test of 2006. He made 98 at Abu Dhabi earlier in this series, and so, when he resumed on 97 overnight, he could perhaps be forgiven for lacking the fluency he had shown on the third evening. Despite two tight shouts for lbw, one dropped catch and a missed stumping off the second ball of the morning, his 151 was quite possibly his finest Test innings yet.

"I was nervous, if I am honest, because I didn't want to miss a hundred against England [again]," he said. "I wanted to take my time and make sure I can do it this time. So it happened and I am glad I managed to cross the mark. This is a different pitch in Sharjah and the previous experience here at the venue helped me and gave me confidence in building this innings."

Hafeez's greatest attribute was the way in which he shifted the pressure back to the bowlers, finding the right attacking stroke at the right moments. His attractive cover-drives were sizzling, elegance with little effort from his wrists. Either side of the nervous nineties, he played with full control and batted with authority, even if his innings ended with a somewhat reckless slap to long-on, where Ian Bell was on hand to end 380 minutes of match-seizing dominance.

Hafeez's career record states that he has been the best of Pakistan's openers since his debut in 2003, for all that the competition for that accolade has been thin on the ground. He has endured while at least a dozen others have come and faded away. On Asian pitches, he is a master - or a professor you might say - with 2809 runs at 50.16, and eight of his nine hundreds, coming in such conditions. Elsewhere he has mustered 541 at 20.80. His true ability as Test player has always been a talking point but his sprinting starts in matches such as these have always provided Pakistan a reason to keep coming back to him.

"It was a fine innings, I can say, because it wasn't easy to bat on this sort of pitch," said Hafeez. "I had to take calculated risks and, as a batsman, it was frustrating because you were not able to pick up runs on such [a slow] outfield, even though hitting with full strength. But I am happy I am able to contribute and achieve exactly what we had to as a team."

Hafeez was particularly proud of the way he stood up to two quality reverse-swing bowlers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad. He has previously struggled against quick bowling - Dale Steyn has dismissed him a remarkable 15 times in all internationals - but Hafeez was adamant that he had never encountered bowling quite like he faced today.

"In my 13 years of career I have never played that much reverse swing," he said. "I used to see Wasim and Waqar doing reverse in the old days but these two have both got something special, maybe the art, and I am surprised to see that much reverse swing in the game."

At the age of 35, Hafeez had faced a struggle to regain the selectors' faith after his offspin bowling was banned by the ICC for an illegal action. The general perception, up until then, was that his selection had been based on both disciplines equally, and so when Shoaib Malik was recalled after a five-year absence to fulfil that offspinning allrounder's role, a sense of competition existed in the team. Hafeez's only means of staying in the side appeared to be to produce big scores, even if Malik's surprise retirement from Tests has now eased the pressure a touch.

"I always consider myself a batsman. But bowling has been a plus," he said. "It played a vital role for me and for my team to make a good combination. So I am definitely disappointed at losing it but I will make a comeback. Without it, my fatigue has been decreased and now I am more concentrated on my batting and it's working well.

"That was very natural to me as I started my career like that. I always enjoyed going in with both batting and bowling but, while I am banned, I have to wait to get cleared. But now all my concentration is towards my batting and contributing with big runs every time I go in."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson

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