Misbah-ul-Haq hasn't yet scored an ODI century, but apart from that he has done pretty much everything as a middle-order batsman for Pakistan. The lack of a hundred has itself put him in the record books, as the scorer of the most runs without a century in one-day internationals, but the series in the West Indies was memorable for many more reasons for a Misbah fan. He was consistency personified, scoring four fifties in five innings, thus becoming only the third captain - after Ricky Ponting and AB de Villiers - to pass 50 so often in a bilateral series when playing five or fewer innings. Two of those efforts won him Man-of-the-Match awards - he has only won five of those in his entire career - while his consistency won him his second Man-of-the-Series award, almost 11 years after his first. And, most importantly, Pakistan won the series 3-1.
The last two-and-a-half years have been outstanding for Misbah the ODI batsman. He is now 39, an age by which most players have long decided that they no longer have the stomach to play one-day internationals. Not Misbah, though. Since the beginning of 2011, he has amassed 2265 runs at an average of more than 50, with 20 half-centuries in 62 innings; until that point, in 52 previous innings, he had scored only nine. Since his 38th birthday, Misbah has made ten 50-plus scores in ODIs, a feat achieved by only one other batsman - Geoffrey Boycott. Given that Boycott won't add to that tally, that's another record which Misbah will surely have all to himself. In fact, apart from these two, only two others have more than five 50-plus ODI scores after the age of 38.
And yet, Misbah the ODI batsman divides opinions among fans, largely because of his scoring rate. Most agree that he needs to bat the way he does given the fragility of the rest of Pakistan's top order, but some still argue that his slow scoring at times leaves the rest of the batting with too much to do. They point to his overall ODI strike rate of 73.38, which has reduced further to 69.13 during this golden period.
While it's true Misbah's strike rate has dropped recently, that number as a standalone stat doesn't offer the full picture. Apart from having to bat with a brittle top order, Misbah has played many of his matches during this period on pitches which are difficult for run-scoring. As the table below shows, in his first 58 matches, when Misbah scored at a strike rate of 80.60, the overall rate in those matches was 79.85. In the matches he has played since 2011, though, the overall strike rate has dropped to 72.88. Misbah's scoring rate is still lower than the overall match rate, but only by around 5%.
* Strike rate of all batsmen in those matches
Among batsmen who have scored at least 1500 ODI runs since the beginning of 2011, Misbah is one of seven to average more than 50, but even when reducing the average cut-off to 40, he is the only one without a hundred. However, what's probably more interesting is the strike rates in matches involving the other players: for most of them it's in the 80s, while for Misbah it's less than 73 (which is probably a combination of the conditions, the strength of Pakistan's bowling attack, and the lack of strength in their batting).
Alastair Cook, for example, has a strike rate of 82.19, but in the matches he has played the overall scoring rate is 83.72, which means Cook is marginally below average. Like Cook, Michael Clarke is slightly below average as well. MS Dhoni, on the other hand, is about 4% above average, scoring at 87.55 when the overall match rate is 84.36. The ones who've clearly exceeded the match rates are AB de Villiers, Shane Watson and Hashim Amla.
Apart from Misbah, the other player whose deficit is more than 5% is England's Jonathan Trott. Plenty has been said about his lack of urgency too, and his rate is about 6.8% below the match rate, compared with Misbah's 5.1%.
* Strike rate of all batsmen in those matches
Pakistan's brittle top order has also made it difficult for Misbah to bat as extravagantly as he otherwise might. In many matches he has come in to bat fairly early, with the innings needing consolidation after the loss of early wickets. The next two tables break down his knocks at No. 4 and No. 5 by the team scores at which he came in to bat in these last two-and-a-half years. When batting at four, in ten out of 21 innings he came in with Pakistan two down for 50 or fewer runs. Six of those were instances of Pakistan losing two wickets for less than 20. In those ten innings when he came in with less than 50 on the board, Misbah scored well, but pretty slowly, managing a strike rate of only 54.
However, his strike rate has been much better in matches when he has come in after Pakistan have gone past 50: in those games he has scored at a strike rate of 75.07. In all of these 21 innings, though, only once has he come in at No. 4 when Pakistan had already gone past 100: against West Indies in St Lucia in 2011, he came in with the score on 132 for 2 in the 34th over, with Pakistan chasing a target of 221. Misbah scored a run-a-ball unbeaten 43, and Pakistan won by seven wickets with two overs to spare.
At No. 5 it's a similar story: cautious batting when the team is in trouble, but a lot more expressive when the team is better placed. Ten times out of 36 Misbah has come in to bat at No. 5 with Pakistan three down for 50 or fewer runs - his strike rate in those innings has been 62.65. When he has come in to bat with the score between 51 and 100, his scoring rate has improved significantly, to 75.28, and it's gone up to an acceptable 80.42 in the 13 innings when he has come in with the total more than 100. His approach in a few individual innings might perhaps be questioned, but overall these are perfectly understandable numbers: consolidating when the team was in trouble, but scoring a lot quicker when the first three wickets had contributed more solidly.
Clearly, what Pakistan need is for their top three to be scoring more consistently. Since the beginning of 2011, Pakistan's top three have collectively averaged 31.42 runs per wicket, the least among the top eight sides.
Not only has Misbah scored the most runs for Pakistan during this period (see table below), he also has the best stats in wins in these two-and-a-half years, scoring 1452 runs at an average of 69. Mohammad Hafeez has scored five hundreds, but he needs to step in and score more consistently against the top sides - a batsman who bats in the top three needs to average more than 32. Umar Akmal has forged the best partnerships with Misbah, with two century stands and ten half-century stands in 29 innings. Their styles complement each other too, with Umar's flamboyance contrasted with Misbah's measured approach. Pakistan fans will want that partnership, and Misbah's splendid form, to continue at least till the 2015 World Cup.