Pakistan v SA, 1st Test, Abu Dhabi, 3rd day

Misbah leaves SA with a big 'if'

His batting may not always be poetry to watch but Misbah-ul-Haq again showed he can 'wait and not be tired by waiting'

Firdose Moonda in Abu Dhabi

October 16, 2013

Comments: 25 | Text size: A | A

Misbah-ul-Haq raises his arms after reaching a century, Pakistan v South Africa, 1st Test, 3rd day, Abu Dhabi, October 16, 2013
Misbah-ul-Haq scored his fourth Test hundred and first in more than two years © AFP
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Misbah-ul-Haq had two minutes and the same number of balls to fully enjoy his fourth Test century. His celebration, including a slow-motion, arms-in-the-air acknowledgement to the crowd, took up most of that time. He faced one more ball before being given out lbw and his review was nothing but hopeful.

In that short period was the whole story of Misbah's last few years. Smattered moments of isolated joy, a few prized individuals achievements and lots of going back to the drawing board to start again almost immediately afterwards. Amazingly he has not seemed to mind any of that. He wears responsibility like a badge of honour and never appears overburdened by its ever-growing weight.

The criticism that Misbah bats too slowly, too defensively and does not show any desire to take the game forward bounces off him as though he is protected by an invisible layer of understanding. He knows his approach is often dictated by circumstance, because Pakistan usually require him to rebuild. He is able, as Kipling put it, to "keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you", and he does so with class.

Still, a lack of centuries catches up with any batsman and Misbah would have been aware time was being marked against him. Since May 2011, when his century against West Indies in St Kitts played a starring role in Pakistan's 196-run win, he had had at least three genuine opportunities to go on to triple figures.

In November that year, he was sailing against Sri Lanka but top-edged a slog-sweep on 89, perhaps in impatience given that his strike rate in that innings was under 35. Against England last January, he was well set on 84 when he was given out lbw to Stuart Broad, despite using a review.

The latest was against Zimbabwe in Harare last month. Misbah was fighting to save the Pakistan innings and had done an admirable job of it. He was the only batsman playing comfortably but he ran out of partners in his quest for a century and could have been forgiven any disappointment. Instead, he showed little emotion when asked how much missing out affected him.

"Maybe I've forgotten how to score hundreds," he said then. He brushed it off as a laughing matter even though pressure was building. Somehow he was able to "wait and not be tired by waiting", until the time was right and the platform laid.

In this match, with the openers putting on their best performance in well over a year, a different Misbah emerged. He scored his first runs with a cut through point that was so powerful it seemed to have stupefied the South Africa fielders. He went on to reverse sweep before he even had 20 runs to his name and ended the second day by showing that, even with dusk approaching, half-volleys would be punished.

The Misbah who took Pakistan into the lead on Tuesday did not show the same cautiousness that has become his middle name. There were risks and edges, There were two reviews, one a catch claimed by Smith at first slip when Misbah was on 38 (which bounced), another for caught behind off JP Duminy when on 79.

By then, Misbah was well on his way to a century. He had not slowed down to the drip-drip level we all know he can bat at, even after he lost his well-set partner Khurram Manzoor and had to usher through a man going through a lean patch. Asad Shafiq, who had not gone past 15 runs in his last six innings, called this the match in which he knew he "had to perform well" and said having Misbah as an example helped.

"He is cool and calm, he made me very comfortable and helped me if I was doing the wrong thing," he said. Their 82-run stand took the lead into the zone that South Africa's coach Russell Domingo indicated he would be uncomfortable with. He wanted to limit the damage to between 80 and 100 runs. By the time Shafiq was dismissed, it was already 124.

Without Misbah, a total of that size may not have been possible and it may only have grown as rapidly as it did because of his more forward-looking style of play. Even as the hundred approached, he did not slow down considerably. There was no point in his innings when he was overwhelmed, not even after the hundred came up. When Misbah was dismissed, it was off a ball that South Africa got right.

Dale Steyn managed to bend it back in slightly and Misbah was hit in front of middle stump. There was little debate about the dismissal and his use of the DRS could only have been due to optimism and the importance of his presence to the team cause. His dismissal triggered a mini-collapse, with Pakistan's last five wickets falling for 48 runs but their advantage was already healthy.

Now it will be about ensuring Pakistan finish off by continuing to operate as Misbah does, in a calculated way that epitomises another Kipling line: "If you can dream, and not makes dreams your master. If you can think and not make thoughts your aim." Clear focus is what is required of Pakistan in the final two days and Misbah is the person to lead them in that.

He has been in cricket for too long for the lines of poem to tell him that can have the earth and all that is in it - this time that would be registering victory against South Africa - or that he has become a man. That happened many moons ago, anyway. But a century was a nice reminder that he still has exactly what it takes not just to rescue and lead his team but to play a role in their successes as well.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Posted by   on (October 17, 2013, 19:54 GMT)

Misbah is the true leader after Great IK, not entertainer like other our players who performing only in advertisement.

Posted by   on (October 17, 2013, 9:25 GMT)

The only thing i hate about Misbah is he is 39 :( I want to see him bat for atleast 5 years.

Posted by Harmony111 on (October 17, 2013, 8:50 GMT)

Many Pak fans needlessly criticize Misbah for being too defensive. I think given the resources he has done quite well. How can he be blamed if his batsmen get all out for 50 in tests? In the CT2013, his team was getting out for low scores yet some ppl blamed Misbah for poor captaincy. Some ppl say he bats too slowly but does he have an option? He gets little help from the other end and has no option but to stay at the wicket for as long as possible. If Younis Khan was in better form then he would have helped him a lot but who is in form in Pak team these days except Misbah? Nasir Jamshed is the only one I can think to be honest. Umar Akmal should have been among the best in the world right now but he has lost his focus. Afridi is well Afridi, he can be magical & horrible in a matter of 5 mins.

I wish Pak start getting regular test matches soon cos even now they are so good and deserve more matches.

Posted by   on (October 17, 2013, 4:06 GMT)

Pakistan will complete their win against SA today. 2nd test would be more critical for SA coz H.Amla flying back to SA to see his new baby. Pakistan have chance to Clean Sweep in a couple of weeks.

Posted by   on (October 17, 2013, 3:43 GMT)

Beautiful article...21 fifties but 4 centuries only Misbah needs to convert them into 100s in test...but what a player & captain he has been for Pakistan...Great Leader

Posted by   on (October 17, 2013, 2:39 GMT)

Jacques better than Sachin?? Sachin decimated bowling attacks around the world and has 6 doubles to his name.. How many does Jacques have?? One.. That was against a bowling attack without penetration.. Once Khan came back Jacques got tamed and the series was leveled

Posted by Guduji71 on (October 16, 2013, 22:28 GMT)

Misbah is a back bone of Pakistan's batting both in test and ODIs. He is not slow by any means, some times rather most of the time he comes in when the team is in deep trouble and he has to slow down and steady the innings. Just imagine if he also gets out in trying to increasing the run rate we could be up for a big collapse. I believe he has saved the team from embarrasments on many occasions. Well done Misbah keep it up man. Now, to those who were hoping Pakistan to have collapse and not get lead of 150, think and cry.................

Posted by   on (October 16, 2013, 22:10 GMT)

This is one of those articles a person waits for to justify Misbah's talent and consistency!

Posted by   on (October 16, 2013, 20:44 GMT)

Misbah has the characteristics of of a great cricketer. He bats with responsibility, he leads well by keeping his calm, and he always clears out the negativity no matter what kind of a situation it is.

Posted by   on (October 16, 2013, 20:37 GMT)

We need crickters not entertainers..misbah is the most consistant batsman ever in Pakistan. Afridi or yonis do crap in dozen of innings and then score one big to secure their place in team...if we had two batsmen with half of consistancy as misbah has, Pakistan would b no 1 side

Posted by   on (October 16, 2013, 20:24 GMT)

He is simply the best captain Pakistan has had after Imran Khan the great... given the circumstances he was handed over the captaincy after the spot fixing episode, he has just carried on, between a series of batting failures, he stood up again and again... against every opposition, but he has been the man... For those who don't like him, I would say they don't know cricket... He has taken every tsunami that Pak cricket has suffered from the neck... A great great character indeed... not animated, composed, solid in his word and virtue... he is a match winner... Sorry GEO, who have always been propagating negatively about him, but this is his real worth... he is a Hero... the records speak for themselves... I wish he has a similar ending to his career as the great IK by winning and bringing home the cup in 2015.....

Posted by zxaar on (October 16, 2013, 19:18 GMT)

@Muhammad Yahya Khan How does Kallis know which match SA going to win and score runs. Kallis did not score 100 in this match and SA is staring defeat. Also like Tendulkar selfish Amla scored 100 here. They should drop Amla because he scored 100 in losing cause. Is this how you think?

Posted by   on (October 16, 2013, 19:14 GMT)

Modest Hero!! Selfless Great leader.. See how education helps..

Posted by   on (October 16, 2013, 18:56 GMT)

@Muhammad Yahya Khan: Kallis has 10k in both formats of cricket, but Tendulker has that too, and better. However what makes Kallis stand out is that he also has 200 wickets in both format and 100 catches in both formats. In other words he has a "Test Triple" and an "ODI Triple" at the same time.

Posted by zarasochozarasamjho on (October 16, 2013, 18:41 GMT)

Good article as always from Firdose, but I also immensely enjoyed the very brief but to the point statement of Umair Iqbal, that the major success of Pakistan batting is the EXCLUSION of Hafeez. He had been bad news for Pakistan for giving failed starts to the innings regularly.

Posted by   on (October 16, 2013, 17:30 GMT)

I will agree with one of the comments Jacques is better than Sachin because he in addition to a bowler is gr8 batsmen and when he scores centuries his team wins rather than losing as is the case for sachin his 100th hundred ended in loss to bangla Cruz he slowed the team innigs

Posted by   on (October 16, 2013, 17:21 GMT)

The major success of Pakistan batting is EXCLUSION of Hafeez.

Posted by zxaar on (October 16, 2013, 17:01 GMT)

Kallis should take retirement and make way for younger player. He is 38 and not contributing. I know he would like to continue to play and try to break Tendulkar's records but he must not be selfish and give chance to young players.

Posted by Mr.PotatoesTomatoes on (October 16, 2013, 16:39 GMT)

You got to admire and respect the poise and composure of Pakistan's peaceful warrior.With his expressions rarely betraying his emotions he has time and again weathered stormy weather in the middle to accord some respectability to Pakistan's score,and has always done it without a hint of annoyance-you almost feel his sangfroid is other worldly. However the Saffers big question is a self-inflicted one-they have batted and bowled as if they were playing at a venue outside the subcontinent.They need to mark out their batting in the first innings as the reason they are so far behind in the game.

Posted by   on (October 16, 2013, 16:37 GMT)

If this article was intended to appreciate Misbah, its been horribly done. 80% of the article is practically highlighting what's wrong with his approach (read: first four paras). Also, "His batting may not always be poetry to watch...", I think he's a delight to watch, especially his patented reverse paddle sweep. If you're referring to his strike rate, then guess what, it's test cricket! His strike rate is still at par with the best batsman in the world, and if you saw the recent CLT20, you would know that he's also one of the biggest hitters in the modern game. He has the ability to strike at will, something most batsman cannot do.

Posted by LeftBrain on (October 16, 2013, 16:25 GMT)

Nice piece Firdose. Misbah was the critical figure in second half of Pakistan batting, especially since Younis couldnt hang on for a long time. He was involved in two very good partnerships with Manzoor and Shafiq and made sure Pakistan keep the advantage. I hope tey finish things off tomorrow so that Pak gets much needed confidence after Zimbabwe dibacle.

Posted by   on (October 16, 2013, 16:21 GMT)

Misbah ul haq always found scoring runs 50+ in every match Misbah is the only batsman in Pakistan cricket who is scoring runs in ever series tournament and match he is in great form and choosen correct Captain for Pakitan the people dont like him i dont know why he is loved by every great senior player LOVE U MISBAH WE ALWAYS SUPPORT U!!!!

Posted by Fogu on (October 16, 2013, 16:19 GMT)

I admire Misbah immensely. He has the perfect temperament to lead Pakistan. I am from BD and we are hoping that we produce players with Misbah's attitude and temperament to take us forward. How he keeps his cool with all the negativity hurled at him, I don't know but I do admire him tremendously for it. He is a good example for any captain to follow.

Posted by CharlesCrasto on (October 16, 2013, 16:18 GMT)

Moonda and Dobell...............PhDs in cricket!!!!

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