Pakistan v South Africa, 2013-14 October 27, 2013

Shafiq's coming of age provides comfort

Not many things went right for Pakistan in the second Test in Dubai, but Asad Shafiq's fighting century against the best Test side in the world, proved that he has the temperament to lead Pakistan's next generation of batsmen

When Misbah-ul-Haq made the mistake of thinking he could slog Dean Elgar as far as the Burj Khalifa, a resistance that threatened to ease the margin of Pakistan's loss - because avoiding defeat altogether was not a realistic possibility - seemed set to unravel. The captain left Asad Shafiq to stall South Africa's attack with the tail and even the most optimistic of Pakistan supporters predicted a swift end.

For an hour, Shafiq held defeat at bay. In the process, he notched up his highest Test score, a second century against the world's top-ranked team this year, and showed how much he has progressed as a batsman. Having impressed with the way he handled the seamers and took on the spinner with Misbah at his side, Shafiq also understood that he had to slow down, shoulder the responsibility, and only take runs when he was absolutely certain he was not putting the man on the other end, and by extension his team, in a position from which they would collapse.

When Adnan Akmal, who struggled throughout the series, was his partner, Shafiq faced Morne Morkel, letting Akmal deal with Imran Tahir. With Saeed Ajmal, Shafiq sensed a little more freedom so he allowed a few mid-over singles and even let himself show off, pulling and then driving Vernon Philander for consecutive fours.

He played with maturity towards the end, showing enough faith in Mohammed Irfan and Junaid Khan to give them the strike but not taking too many risks even though the end was nigh. It seemed as though the patience he had afforded when he batted with Younis Khan in Cape Town earlier this year, and with Misbah for much of his innings in Dubai, was paying off.

Shafiq has had the benefit of spending long periods at the crease with Pakistan's senior statesmen and he seems to have learnt from it. From the moment he came in to bat, he would have seen how Misbah was absorbing the pressure. Whether he was foxed by an Tahir googly, rattled by a Morkel bouncer, or was on the receiving end of extreme pace and angry eyes from Dale Steyn, Misbah reacted in the same way.

Misbah waited for the end of the delivery, strolled in the direction of square leg, composed himself, and came back to face the next one. He treated each ball like a chapter in a book, turning the page, leaving it behind and then carrying on with the next one.

Shafiq did not show the same composure as he neared his century and it appeared he was getting a little overexcited with his desire to charge JP Duminy. However, a calming influence in Misbah at the other end ensured that Shafiq operated within certain confines. He was encouraged to attack the short ball, something he has shown both in South Africa and during this series. He has also, simply by watching watching Misbah, learnt to judge things with caution.

In getting the balance right, Shafiq justified the selectors' decision to stick with him despite a lean run in Zimbabwe, and showed his own ability to read the game and understand a match situation. "That is a really big plus for us," Misbah said. "Everybody knows he is capable of that. He got a really good hundred in South Africa but he was a bit short of confidence coming in to this series. This innings was special because the pitch wasn't easy and the bowling was good. He really played a masterful innings."

With the South African seamers testing the batsmen with control, Shafiq's concentration was tested. So was his intent, because if he had stopped scoring runs, he could have forced himself into a corner where making a mistake was possible.

The way he responded is what impressed Misbah the most. "In situations against the top side in the world, character is important," he said. "You have to stand tall and take on the bowlers. They were using the rough very well but he was good and positive, he used his feet well and read the situation well."

Shafiq has played 23 Tests overs three years but Misbah believes it is only now that "he has started to understand the demands of Test cricket." With that kind of experience needed before a player can get out of the starting blocks, its easy to see why Misbah does not want to dispense with the likes of Khurram Manzoor and Shan Masood, who indicated they could be a solution to the opening conundrum in the first Test, but were dispatched cheaply in the second, and Azhar Ali, who is enduring a lean trot.

Pakistan had a host of problems after the first innings failure but by the end of the match, Shafiq wasn't one of them. "In the coming years you might not have me and Younis Khan around and he is the one who can gather the Pakistan line up. He has the talent and he has the temperament to take the batting forward."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Qaasim on October 30, 2013, 7:47 GMT

    Shafiq is a quality test bat and a very good number 6 ... People here are sayin that he scored but the team had lost so it was easy to score for him so what about the qsecond test in South Africa when the team was 4 down for not much and he scored a century and shared a double century stand with Younis was that easy??? Although I do agree that he is NOT suited to odi and t20 cricket.

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2013, 19:41 GMT

    PLEASE FOR GOD sake dont ignore the player Sharjeel Khan and Abdul Razzaq and Sami Aslam , Kind Request to PCB . Thank you , i can say more like Fawad Alam he seems deserving candidate.But atleast if these three are considered it will mean fortune for pakistan cricket allah willing lets just hope selectors can see that.

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2013, 19:07 GMT

    Asad shafiq is the most consistent batsmen after misbah and younas but he has been sidelined on various occasion even after well performing.... i remembered last time when he was dropped for sake of shoaib malik .... He needs permanent position in team and soon you will see that he will be the backbone of pakistan batting like Yousaf, inzi, younus and misbah.

  • Ata on October 29, 2013, 18:56 GMT

    I am fan of Asad Shafiq and I believe he is better player among all new players, and should be part of all formats, but i don't agree this century was in pressure situation. I believe and myself played a lot of cricket, when you already know that you have lost the match and there is nothing more to loss, it is the easiest time to score few runs, there bowlers also feel a bit relaxed. When you are playing on 5, 6 position and the top 4 players goes for nothing again you don't have any pressure because you know no body will blame you alone for losing the game. But when the top order score and team is in winning situation and they need few runs from you too, or sometime need from you to finish the game with victory, then the real pressure comes.

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2013, 18:22 GMT

    Pak should play with this xii Jamshed, Ahmed shazad, Shoib maksood, Misba uk haq, Umer akmal, Umer Amin, Haffez, Afridi, ajmal, juned Khan, Mohammed Irfan...with this line up they will hav 8 batsman as there batting is week.with this team they hav 3 spinners and 2 fast bowlers...if they requure I more bowler than Amin should give way to Tanvir..but plz no more Wahab Raiz I am fedup of watvhing him and feeling sorry for pak bowling...Shoib Maksood is the future of Pak batting his has shown glimse in the only T20 he played against Zimbabwe. So he needs to be investigated in.....My team is best for pak with this squad.

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2013, 7:42 GMT

    I was surprised by one of the comments because of the apparent lack of information. Asad has now played 7 tests this year scoring two 50s and 2 100s, all against SA, the number one test playing nation. I do not understand the impatience!

    The only players that might need to be looked at for tests are Umer Akmal (Wkt?) and Nasir jamshaid. The rest of the team selects itself really.

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2013, 7:41 GMT

    Out of 4 innings, Shan Masood,Khurram manzoor and Asad Shafique failed to capitalize in 3! Younis khan and Azhar Ali failed to score even a forty in 4 innings! Adnan who has shown some character in zimbabwe was completely out classed here!

    *Only Misbah Ul HaQ has shown the caliber to compete with a top ranked side*

    This is the only problem with Pakistan team that they lack consistency...If some one thinks of replacing some one with another one, then it will only be a replacement of some talent with a new talent, who, for an instance we may call, a better talent...but the thing which is required here is CONSISTENCY which, if is developed, can turn an ordinary into precious !!

    Good luck to Team green for their one day venture... High hopes from Nasir Jamshed, Umar Akmal and Misbah in batting, while bowling will also suffer in front of safers !

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2013, 5:46 GMT

    Asad Shafiq's innings was in circumstances that would have suited any batsman, its very easy to get a hundred when you are on the losing side this doesn't prove anything.................

  • Shahid on October 29, 2013, 0:46 GMT

    Asad Shafiq did hit the ton but Pakistani cricket lovers will have to pay big price for this century by tolerating under 20 score in quite a few matches in future. We should bring in new players with consistency, not a ton after 10-15 matches.

  • Dummy4 on October 28, 2013, 19:15 GMT

    @ihaq1 plz get your stats straight my friend Shafiq scored 4 centuries in 23 test matches while Umer Akmal has only 1 test hundred to his name in 15 odd tests. . .

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