April 20, 2017

Remember the titans

We celebrate Misbah and Younis' immeasurable careers by picking 15 of their most memorable moments
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Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan are playing the last Tests of their careers in the Caribbean. They made their Test debuts within a year of each other at the turn of the century, and though they have taken vastly different paths since, they find themselves at the very end now more or less in the same place. One will go out arguably as the finest captain Pakistan has had, the other as, arguably, its finest batsman. Over the course of this Test series, we will count down their last days on the field by charting their highs and lows, on and off the field: the great innings, the memorable wins, the deflating losses, the controversies. This is not a definitive or a chronological list of their achievements - careers so rich and textured are rarely captured so easily, and only rarely can be made sense of in order. Instead, these are moments and achievements by which to remember two of the most significant careers Pakistan cricket has seen.

Hungry from the start: Younis kicked off proceedings with a hundred on debut © Getty Images

#11 Younis arrives in style

Younis' Test career began in the shadow of the Justice Qayyum inquiry, two months before the report was made public. Pakistan were in the process of transition, with an advisory council under General Tauqir Zia aiming to induct more youngsters into the team. Younis, 22, was the leading scorer in the 1999-00 Quaid-e-Azam season, making five hundreds and 1102 runs at 110.20 for Habib Bank Limited, and was in contention for the home series against Sri Lanka along with Faisal Iqbal and Bazid Khan. Only Younis made the cut for the opening Test, announcing his arrival with a second-innings hundred. Pakistan lost by two wickets, but his resilience had kept them afloat in a game in which they had conceded a first-innings lead of 171. Seventeen years on, he would have all the major national batting records under his belt, and become the most successful batsman in the history of Pakistan cricket. It all began with that 107 against Sri Lanka in Rawalpindi, making him just the seventh Pakistan batsman to score a hundred on debut. Impressive as that was, Younis was only getting started. - Umar Farooq

Misbah has captained Pakistan to more Test wins than anyone else © AFP

#12 A leader steps forth

Misbah's defining feature is his calmness, but when he was dropped for the England tour in 2010, after a winless tour of Australia a few months earlier, he was so disenchanted, he nearly burnt his cricket equipment in anger. At 36, with just 19 Tests under his belt, the writing appeared to be on the wall, and Misbah was contemplating retirement. He had only one ambition left: to play the 2011 World Cup.

But what happened thereafter would be fanciful even for a fairy tale. In the aftermath of the Lord's spot-fixing saga that cast a shadow over that 2010 tour, Misbah was secretly offered the captaincy in a small room at the Gaddafi Stadium by the PCB chairman then, Ijaz Butt. A new era for Pakistan cricket began.

Misbah marked his return in style, scoring six successive half-centuries, each one hugely important to the cause of the team. It wasn't to be a short-lived purple patch either, as the ageless Misbah's career just seemed to go on and on. He provided strong, steady leadership after a tumultuous phase for the team, and went on to become the most successful Test captain in Pakistan's history. - Umar Farooq

Grinders Inc: the two at work in Dubai © AFP

#13 Our heroes share a stand in Dubai

Euphoric highs and dire lows might be part and parcel of the game in Pakistan, but the depths the country's cricket had sunk to by the autumn of 2010 were grim, even by their standards. When Misbah took over the reins, his predecessor had been implicated in a spot-fixing scandal that disgraced a nation and that would see him serve time at Her Majesty's pleasure, and his two best bowlers were gone as well.

The prospect of facing a South African team that read more like an all-star line-up didn't raise any Pakistani hopes: Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel were all part of the XI in the first Test of Misbah's captaincy. South Africa set Pakistan an academic 451 to chase with over 100 overs to bowl at them, and the match seemed to be going entirely according to plans and expectations. However, Misbah and Younis came together with over two sessions to go and South Africa needing seven wickets, and showcased the resoluteness that would become their hallmark in the years to come. Seeing off Steyn, Morkel and Kallis one by one, the pair - even then old hands at 36 and 32 - steered the match to a draw that hadn't seemed to be within Pakistan's capabilities to achieve. Fifty-seven overs later, the two were still at the crease, unbeaten on 131 and 76 respectively, and Smith was forced into an early handshake. This was Younis' third consecutive fourth-innings century - as many as Sachin Tendulkar managed throughout his career. - Danyal Rasool

Back and how: Younis soaks up the applause for his hundred Deshakalyan Chowdhury / © AFP

#14 Beware the maestro scorned

A player with an injured body might not be the force he is when fully fit, but perhaps no batsman is as lethal as Younis nursing a bruised ego. Coming into the second Test in Kolkata in 2005 after scoring 9 and 1 in Mohali, Younis was told by Saleem Altaf, the Pakistan team manager, that his place in the side was in jeopardy, and reportedly that he was finished. Younis had scored only one century in his last 15 Tests, and in Pakistan, when a player is dropped, there are no guarantees they will be able to return to the international fold. So Younis in the next two games was playing not just for his place in the side but potentially his career. Far more importantly for him, however, he was playing for his pride. That was obvious enough when he responded with a counterattacking 147 in Kolkata; his none-too-subtle celebration upon reaching three figures was further evidence of how vindicated he felt. His adrenaline carried him through to the third Test, in Bangalore, where he combined with Inzamam-ul-Haq for a gargantuan 324-run partnership to break the backs of the Indian bowlers. By the time he was done, he had accumulated 267 - the highest score by a visiting batsman in India - and set up a famous 168-run win over Pakistan's arch-rivals. That little phase in his career perhaps defined Younis Khan best: angry, resentful, reactive, redeemed. - Danyal Rasool

Misbah frustrated India's bowlers for more than seven hours over two innings in Delhi in 2007 © AFP

#15 Misbah to the rescue, version 1.0

Three Tests v India, 2007-08, 464 runs at 116, two hundreds and one fifty
Misbah has been saving Pakistan since forever, right? Well, India in 2007-08 was where he first started settling into that role. He had just returned to the national side after a long gap and acquired a reputation during the first World T20.

This, however, is where he showed off the full range of his batting. Only once in six innings did he arrive at the crease with Pakistan in anything other than strife. Twice he left with unbeaten hundreds, having taken Pakistan to safety; twice more he fought as hard as he could to leave them safe, only to fail at the end (and note the bizarre, untimely dismissals in Delhi - run out while jumping to avoid the throw, and charging Sourav Ganguly).

The batting style would become familiar - long, contemplative periods of defence interrupted by short, sharp bursts of carefree and innovative hitting. He ended not far short of 500 runs for the series. For a brief period, when Inzamam had left, Mohammad Yousuf was fading and Younis was tormented by the distractions of leadership, Misbah was Pakistan's best batsman across formats. - Osman Samiuddin

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  • imran_abbas on April 27, 2017, 7:15 GMT

    Azhar should captain test side.

  • imran_abbas on April 27, 2017, 7:15 GMT

    True legends.. especially test cricket. Worthy replacements would be Haris Sohail and Fawad Alam. Umar Akmal can be brought to test side too. Future team could be: 1- Ahmad Shahzad 2- Sami Aslam 3- Azhar Ali 4- Asad Shafeeq 5- Fawad Alam/Haris Sohail 6- Umar Akmal 7- Sarafaz 8- Shadab/Yasir 9- Aamir 10- Hassan 11- Abbas/Junaid

  • gujratwalla on April 26, 2017, 11:58 GMT

    @logicalpakistani.You are right about Iftikhar Ahmed .He is there because of some close contacts in tge PCB otherwise like Imran Farahat before him is less than a club cricketer.

  • LogicalPakistani on April 26, 2017, 11:12 GMT

    Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Babar Azam, Usman Salahuddin; are the best Test talents in Pakistan for Test cricket. I'd never consider players like Rizwan, Iftikhar etc. who have the worst techniques.

  • Salis on April 26, 2017, 10:42 GMT

    Both share a similar story in term of cricketing career,

    Misbah - failed to impress in the start of career and was left out for as long as anything, never gave up, kept fighting, stayed focused and continued to play and perform in domestic arena knowing that National team is already furnished with the greats of Inzi and Yousuf.

    Younis on the other hand had faced many discomforts from the nature by witnessing the losses of his father, brothers, uncle and mother and some added flavor by PCB by keeping him in and out on regular basis for as many reason as one can count. But both stood resilient, drove through every obstruction, brawled with the bat at every level and beaten the odds and proved them wrong. The character they showed is something extra ordinary and is not something habitual for a cricket fan

    They both are unarguably the best for Pakistan. Pride of the nation, inspiration to the youngster

    The Mr. Consistent (Younis Khan) The man with steel nerves (Misbah ul haq) #MisYou

  • gujratwalla on April 26, 2017, 5:44 GMT

    Younis...The Flag of Pakistan following him....Misbah...The Captain of Pakistan...it is all about the love of the homeland....Salutations from the nation!Allah bless you both.And Thanks.

  • LogicalPakistani on April 26, 2017, 4:30 GMT

    All hail the Legends! One of the greatest ambassadors of Pakistan. #misyou

  • ammar7may on April 25, 2017, 21:36 GMT

    #MisYou for ever. You brought the decade of dignity and respect to Pak, especially when the dark was looming all over. Thank you very much.

  • cricfan01159554 on April 25, 2017, 14:16 GMT

    Thanks you both for bring the respect and dignity back to Pakistan's cricket without compromising the competitive ness. Great ambassador for the game and the people they represent, great examples of hard work and pursuit of excellence.

  • Mohammad Zamin on April 23, 2017, 9:32 GMT

    @SamRoy - You are right Misbah does not seem like a great batsman in faster wickets, but in all honesty he has has hardly toured. You have to understand Misbah has not has a very long career. Also Misbah is simply out of form so his recent showing in Australia and New Zealand can be attributed to him just ageing. And in all honesty there are only a handful of SC batsman that can handle bounce (pace is not an issue for Pak, neither is seam or swing). Thats why no SC team has ever won a series in Australia. India also has played seam and swing well in the past hence their victories in England.

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