May 11, 2017

Remember the titans

We celebrate Misbah and Younis' immeasurable careers by picking 15 of their most memorable moments
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Younis and Misbah: they sure made some magic together © AFP

#1 Partners in crime

With Misbah and Younis bowing out together, it is only fitting to conclude our countdown with a glance at what those two, as a pair, provided to Pakistan cricket. It is easy to see why they are feted as they are: they have combined for 3213 runs when batting together, averaging 68.36. That is the highest aggregate for any batting combination in Pakistan's history.

Even more illuminating is when you isolate the number of runs they scored in partnerships in Test matches Pakistan won. That adds up to 1613 runs at an astonishing average of 89.61, once more the highest aggregate Pakistan cricket can boast of. In short, if you needed Pakistan to make runs that helped them win Test matches, Misbah and Younis batting together was the answer.

And yet, they will do so no more. Farewell, lads. Cricket will #MisYou. - Danyal Rasool

After five hours at the crease, Misbah-ul-Haq still managed a unique celebration at Lord's © Getty Images

#2 The push-ups

Ten push-ups. No big deal. I can do that. You can do that. We can all pretty much pull out ten, right? Except how many of us would do it a month-and-a-half after our 42nd birthday, having batted for nearly five hours, defied the opposition and kept afloat the hopes of your own side, with little long-form cricket to prepare in over the six preceding months, at the home of cricket, where not six years ago the side you're leading now had left not only in defeat but complete disgrace?

Not too many of us, no. Misbah's hundred, in his first innings at Lord's, was a monumental moment for Pakistan cricket last year, not least because it set up a win that reverberated across the world. Still when he guided Steven Finn for a single to third man, all you might have expected was a little pump of the first, a windmilling of the arms perhaps, a hug and a bat raise.

But not least among the virtues of Misbah has been his ability to keep confounding everyone one. And so the push-ups and the salute to his dressing room, in tribute to the army soldiers who had trained Pakistan's players to peak physical fitness before the tour, went, as they say these days, viral. - Osman Samiuddin

Brendan Taylor and Misbah share the trophy after Zimbabwe won the second Test in Harare © Associated Press

#3 Zimbabwe's zenith, Misbah's nadir

Misbah is set to go down as Pakistan's most successful captain in terms of matches won, but his captaincy will always retain the blot of Pakistan's most embarrassing defeat in recent times. Heading into the second match of a two-Test series against Zimbabwe after winning the first comfortably, Misbah was in form, having scored two fifties in the first game.

But a middle-order collapse gave Zimbabwe a 64-run lead in the second Test and things began to get edgy. Even so, Pakistan were still favourites to chase down a fourth-innings target of 264 against a fairly ordinary Zimbabwean attack that had been without a bowling coach for six months.

Zimbabwe, though, bowled like a team inspired, sniffing a rare Test win against a big team. They kept setting Pakistan back with wickets at regular intervals, before suddenly it was the skipper Misbah himself left batting with the tail, a hundred runs still to get. He kept chipping away at the total with the lower order giving him support and, with 26 to win and two wickets still in hand, it looked like Misbah's cool head would prevail once more.

However, Zimbabwe took the new ball straightaway at 80 overs, and fast bowler Tendai Chatara removed Junaid Khan off just his fourth delivery. Two balls later, it was all over as Misbah and Rahat Ali ended up hopelessly muddled when they tried to keep the captain on strike. Rahat Ali was comfortably run out, and Zimbabwe exulted in a famous win - to date, their only Test victory against a side other than Bangladesh since 2001. - Danyal Rasool

Misbah puts the pedal to the metal © Getty Images

#4 The fastest hundred

Misbah once said that he would rather win a game being defensive than lose a game being aggressive. His style of play has been criticised through his career as captain, and his reputation of batting slow and taking the conservative route became a defining feature. He was mocked with the nickname "Tuk tuk", and his risk-averse play never sat well among Pakistan fans. But on the fourth day of the second Test against Australia in Abu Dhabi in 2014, he shrugged off all those labels, unleashing a side to his game few knew he possessed.

It wasn't an ordinary day; it was a day when the Pakistan batting line-up was well in command, allowing Misbah to be free. When he walked to the middle, Pakistan led by over 450 runs, and he would later claim it was a rare instance when he was not really under pressure. He made the best of it, smashing a hundred off 56 balls, equalling the record held by a batsman nothing like him in style: Viv Richards. The second fastest century in terms of time, it took 74 minutes: no more tuk tuk; perceptions had to change from then on. - Umar Farooq

Abu Dhabi, 2014: Misbah savours the 2-0 © Getty Images

#5 Australian whitewashes

Take your pick of the finest results under Misbah: England 2011-12, England 2015-16 or England 2016? Well, throw in the home whitewash of Australia in 2014-15, which was possibly better than all three.

Misbah went at them with an attack that included two debutants, and eight Tests between four of them. It was being rebuilt after the loss of Saeed Ajmal and injuries to Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan. The batting prospered like it had done rarely before but it was the bowlers who won a first series against Australia in 20 years.

The return battle in the last Australian summer promised to be close. And Pakistan began promisingly, nearly chasing 490 in the first Test. Then for four rain-hit days they were in control at the MCG. And then, one session of sunshine and pfft went the dream. Once they had lost that Test, a fourth consecutive whitewash in Australia - a truly unexpected one - was a formality. - Osman Samiuddin

See ball, catch ball © AFP

#6 Catch me if you can

On the second day of the second Test at Colombo's SSC Ground in 2014, Rangana Herath edged Abdur Rehman to first slip, where Younis took a straightforward catch. On the surface, a humdrum, commonplace occurrence. But this wasn't just any catch - it was Younis' 100th in Test cricket, and he became the first Pakistan cricketer to the mark, surpassing the tallies of Javed Miandad (93) and Inzamam-ul-Haq (81).Statistically, Younis holds pretty much all batting records among Pakistan's Test cricketers and will retire as his country's most successful batsman ever. But in a team that has often been shoddy in the field, the fielding standards that Younis consistently maintained have been almost as impressive - and certainly a fine example to Pakistan's next crop of cricketers. Younis' instinct and presence of mind were defining features of his fielding, and he has had as safe a pair of hands as any in the slip cordon. Little wonder, then, that since that morning in Colombo, he has added a few dozen catches to his tally, setting a high bar for his compatriots. - Umar Farooq

The Misbah-Younis rescue job - Wellington edition © Getty Images

#7 The old reliables secure a series win

Wellington 2011: Misbah's reign, and Younis' reintegration into the team, were still only three matches old. But if ever there was a game to encapsulate the previous seven years, with Misbah at the helm and Younis by his side, it was this, the second Test of a two-match series in New Zealand, with Pakistan leading 1-0.

After New Zealand opted to bat and posted 356, the match was in the balance when the two old hands - whom Pakistan had inexplicably decided to build a long-term future around - joined each other at the crease at 144 for 3. They added 142 runs to put Pakistan in a position of strength, before a late burst from New Zealand kept the visitors' lead to a slender 20. Misbah was denied his first hundred as captain in agonising fashion, trapped lbw for 99 by a ball that might have been going over the top; it would certainly have been reviewed today.

The Test was set up for a grandstand finish, with the hosts setting Pakistan 274 to win and the entire last day in which to get it. The top order lasted 13 overs, and Pakistan were 42 for 3 when Younis and Misbah found themselves in the middle again. The two added 118 runs in 45 overs, their minds entirely on survival as they looked to bail their team out in a manner that would go on to become familiar. Pakistan then shut shop completely, adding just 66 runs in the Test's final 34 overs to hold on to a 1-0 series win.

It was a mark of how underappreciated the pair - particularly Misbah - was at the time that the reaction from Pakistan was mostly critical about them having refused to be more adventurous in their pursuit of victory. But in the circumstances that surrounded Pakistan's cricket at the time, adventure would have been the last thing on minds as pragmatic as those of Younis and Misbah. - Danyal Rasool

Younis gets an appreciative pat on the shoulder from his captain © Getty Images

#8 A little Younis epic

Pakistani fans may remember their side's Test win in Port Elizabeth - one of only two Test victories in South Africa to date - for any number of performances. Shoaib Akhtar on the first day, having not actually bowled that well, causing a South Africa collapse; Inzamam-ul-Haq's masterful unbeaten 92, among his finest innings ever; Mohammad Asif's magnificent five-for, drawn out over 38 second-innings overs.

But for all the bowlers' - and Inzi's - great work, Pakistan's chase of 191 still looked like it may just have stretched beyond them. At 92 for 5, with Inzamam and Mohammad Yousuf gone in the space of a couple of overs, it had passed them by. Except, of course, that Younis remained, at that time the least celebrated of Pakistan's middle-order trio.

The assist from Kamran Akmal was vital, even if his disruption of South African pressure was built on some chancy counterattacking. But it allowed Younis to settle and play the chase at his own pace, in his own style and in his own bubble. He has made far bigger scores, has battled through other fourth innings and final days, but this little three-hour gem was a perfect window into the situations that brought out the best in Younis. - Osman Samiuddin

Lawyered up: Younis doesn't take the PCB's punches lying down © AFP

#9 Younis' indefinite ban

Younis has his own way of doing things. Throughout his 17-year-career he has fought the system, stood defiant against the odds, and relinquished the Pakistan captaincy twice in protest. But the worst dent his career received was in 2010, when he was banned "indefinitely" in the wake of the disastrous tour of Australia.

Younis had stepped down as captain and player ahead of the tour to New Zealand in 2009 over differences with his team-mates. He missed the Test leg of the Australia tour that followed but returned for the five ODIs, in which he only managed 67 runs. The PCB, under the chairmanship of Ijaz Butt, responded to Pakistan's abject defeat by banishing seven senior players, including Younis, for allegedly creating infighting within the squad. He missed 13 straight Tests as a result.

The ban was lifted three months after being imposed, much to the relief of then-captain Shahid Afridi, who was keen to have Younis on board for the 2010 England tour. However, Younis was not cleared for selection by the board, being the only player who refused to apologise, insisting, in typically defiant fashion, that he had nothing to apologise for. It took the spot-fixing scandal of 2010 before the PCB and Younis mended fences, and he has continued to go from strength to strength since. - Umar Farooq

The mind games: Younis was dismissed in the 190s in back-to-back Tests in 2006 © AFP

#10 The nervous (1)90s

For a man set to be remembered statistically as Pakistan's greatest batsman, it would be disingenuous to deny that part of Younis' appeal lies in his numbers. That is why two particular Tests against India in 2006 - statistically Younis Khan's favourite opponents - remain memorable.

If ever there were Test matches worthy of being consigned to the dustbins of history, they were the two played in Lahore and Faisalabad that series: crude, obscene run fests without even the pretence of the desire for a result. But on the pitches where batsmen like Younis could have made big runs in their sleep, it was tiny runs, a scampered single in Lahore, six too few in Faisalabad, which held him at bay. He had almost waltzed to 199 in the first Test when that final single suddenly muddled that complicated mind. Having driven Anil Kumble straight to mid-off, Younis set off for what seemed an unnecessarily risky single and was more than halfway down the pitch when he realized that Shahid Afridi, at the other end, had turned his back to him. Younis turned around desperately but Harbhajan Singh's direct hit meant even the third umpire wasn't needed.

The second Test was a similar bore fest, and with Pakistan 490 for 4 in their second innings, it appeared they were only waiting for Younis - on 194 - to reach 200 before shaking hands. But there are some runs that must be scored in the mind, ones that even unashamedly featherbed pitches can't help you get. Whether Younis was thinking about the previous Test we don't know. He was late reacting to an RP Singh full ball, which trapped him dead in front of middle stump. It denied him another double but granted him instead a cool statistic: he has been dismissed more often in the 190s (twice) than the 90s (once). - Danyal Rasool

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Naved Siddiqi on May 15, 2017, 20:37 GMT

    It is really disgraceful and disrespectful to Younis Khan to keep associating him with Misbah. Younis is a legend and one of the all time greats.

    Misbah on the other hand is the definition of mediocre. Mediocre player, poor captain - we saw his real captaincy credentials during the tour of Australasia. Thankfully he's retiring. He is celebrated the world over because he turned Pakistan in to the type of team the opposition wanted - meek, mediocre and defensive. End of the most boring era in Pakistan cricket

  • Syed.k2270968 on May 13, 2017, 15:04 GMT

    We wont remember Misbah after 1 year because Misbah defensive mind set ruined career of PAkistani's natural talent, all started playing with Misbah mindset and lost their natural talent.

    After Misbah trust me guys, there will be new aggressive and extra ordinary phase, bring back Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shahzad and ask them to play teir natutral game in all formats.

    Please dont make captain Azhar Ali carbon copy of Misbah.

  • Syed.k2270968 on May 13, 2017, 14:35 GMT

    We wont remember Misbah after 1 year because Misbah defensive mind set ruined career of PAkistani's natural talent, all started playing with Misbah mindset and lost their natural talent.

    After Misbah trust me guys, there will be new aggressive and extra ordinary phase, bring back Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shahzad and ask them to play teir natutral game in all formats.

    Please dont make captain Azhar Ali carbon copy of Misbah.

  •   Hafees Rehman on May 10, 2017, 14:28 GMT

    I feel sad toady the two legends of the game appeared in their last game. The cricket will #Mis_You both

  • Khurram S Chaudhry on May 10, 2017, 9:41 GMT

    Last match for two of the gentlemen of cricket. Both have served well and did well but highly underrated for their services. MISBAH has achieved a lot with not many great players in the team. He was made captain when Pak was in worst phase of history and he did well. Stability was the main factor. Whereas YK has always been among the greats. His stats are among the best. Sadly both will end their career with less matches than many others who played cricket for as many years as these two. Hope they can win it to sign off on high. Misbah missed two 100s in this series while YK has crossed 10k but winning a series would be so good. Hope rain gives enough time to finish a game. Good luck. MisYou

  • CricMystique on May 10, 2017, 9:13 GMT

    great players, and above all played with dignity and without a lot of histronics , theatrics and the ugly posturing prevalent nowadays, a throwback to another era, like those of sachin, Rahul, vvs, kumble et al - as an indian fan - hugely admire both - yk was pak equivalent of Rahul, Misbah - a calm collected fantastic captain....both have served pak cricket very well...wish them all the v best ....respect from india

  •   Nimal Chandrasena on May 10, 2017, 8:16 GMT

    Some of the game's finest gentlemen! Much admired in the World of Cricket! Wonderful human beings - who have fought hard for their country; In the tradition of Javed Miandad, Imran Khan and Wasim Akram - among the very best that Pakistan has produced. I am a Sri Lankan, and these two are among my favourites. Enjoy retirement. You have both set a very high standard as Sportsmet that others will strive to achieve!

  •   SakibMessi14 on May 5, 2017, 16:25 GMT

    May Allah bless both of them.

  • Shehryar on May 2, 2017, 7:30 GMT

    hold on a minute. Pakistan has won 2 tests in South Africa, not 1 as the author suggests. Pakistan won in Durban 1997-98 as well.