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Great Test Matches XVI-Pakistan v West Indies, Kingston, 1958 - Gulu Ezekiel
by Gulu Ezekiel
Dec 30, 2008
Pakistan's first visit to the West Indies in 1958 produced some fascinating cricket and batting records that survive to this day.

For the home team it was a period of transition. The era of the wondrous three W's-Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott and Frank Worrell-was coming to an end. Worrell was unavailable for the series (he was studying at University in England) while Walcott announced his retirement at the end of the fifth Test. In the second Test at Port of Spain, the last great spinner to represent the West Indies, Lance Gibbs would make his debut.

There was also the case of the young genius Garry Sobers, who had made his Test debut four years earlier as a teenager and was seemingly at a crossroads. The third Test at Kingston, Jamaica would be his 17th Test and as he had yet to score a century; already questions were being raised about his ability. He certainly put all that to rest with a world record 365 not out that stood till Brian Lara eclipsed it in 1994.

There was a hint of controversy too preceding the series with FCM 'Gerry' Alexander named as captain. West Indies would have to wait another two years before natural justice prevailed and a black man (Worrell) was finally appointed to lead the side.

The young cricketing nation of Pakistan had made a big impression after their first two tours, to India in 1952 and England in 1954 on both of which they won a Test match.

Now they were taking on the might of the Caribbeans on their own pitches. It would be a tough tour, but one from which the tourists once again emerged with credit, losing three of the Test matches but winning the final one by an innings.

In Hanif Mohammad they had a batting champion whose stature worldwide was in direct proportion to his height. The pace bowling attack too was pretty formidable as proven in the Oval Test four years earlier.

West Indies included debutant batsman Conrad Hunte for the first Test at Bridgetown, Barbados after he had impressed with 77 in the tour game for Barbados.

Hunte would go onto to become a great opening batsman and responded first time around with a magnificent 142. Not showing a trace of nerves, he plundered 50 of the first 55 runs on the board.

With Weekes smashing a typically belligerent 197-his 16th and final Test century--and all the specialist batsmen chipping in with useful scores, West Indies declared late on the second day at a formidable 579 for 9.

It was a harsh beginning for another debutant, left-arm spinner Nasim-ul-Ghani who failed to pick up a wicket. He did however set a record for being the youngest Test player at the time, 16 years 248 days.

Though openers Hanif and Imtiaz Ahmed managed to add 35, the batsmen really had no answer to the express pace and hostility of Roy Gilchrist who captured four wickets in 15 overs. They collapsed to 106 all out, trailing by a massive 473 runs.

The task before them was a massive one. It was not even halfway through the third day and this was a Test stretching over six days. It would take a monumental feat of endurance if they were to come out of this ordeal unscathed.

If any batsman of the time was capable of such a feat, it would be Hanif, the second of the famous four Mohammad brothers who represented their country with such distinction.

The man originally dubbed 'The Little Master' was known to possess massive powers of concentration. Now every ounce of those powers would be required.

Hanif did not let his countrymen down. By the close of the third day Pakistan had responded well to the challenge to reach 162 for one, the indomitable opener batting on 61. His stand with wicket-keeper Imtiaz (91) worth 152 did much to blunt the ferocious Windies bowling attack.

Still, there were a further three days to go. How could Pakistan possibly hold out for that long?

Gilchrist's fiery temperament, extreme pace and dodgy action all made him a terrifying prospect. It took a sound piece of advice from Walcott to Hanif-never to trying hooking Gilchrist-that persuaded the opener to sway out of the line of the bouncers rather than try to hook or duck.

"I was concentrating hard. The heat was exhausting and Gilchrist menacing. I was taking as much strike as possible and was successful in swaying away from the fearsome bouncers," wrote Hanif of his epic innings. In fact, such was the heat that layers of skin were peeling off beneath his eyes as he batted on and on and on.

Another century stand followed, this time 112 for the second wicket with Alimuddin. When he was out for 37 at 264 for 2, there was still plenty of work to be done.

Hanif did the lion's share. But he received tremendous support from debutant Saeed Ahmed (65) and elder brother Wazir (35). It meant the first four wickets all produced century stands with Hanif standing like a rock.

Even as they ended the fifth and penultimate day at 525 for 3 (Hanif on 270) and with the threat of an innings defeat now averted, a draw was still not a surety.

Hanif had batted through the whole of the fourth day in scoring exactly 100 and then the fifth while adding 109 to his total. It certainly made for tedious viewing. But there was a job at hand-saving the Test-and Hanif was the saviour for his side.

At the tea break on the final day, his task has been achieved. But on 334 there was one more landmark to be crossed-Len Hutton's world record of 364 set in 1938.

It was not to be. He fell three runs later, caught behind off medium pacer Denis Atkinson, his only reward for 62 overs of hard toil.

Captain Kardar immediately declared the innings at 657 for 8-still the highest by a side following on. West Indies batted for 11 overs for 28 for no loss-their target was 185. Who would have guessed a few days earlier when the Pakistani batting had crumbled in their first innings?

Hanif insists the exact duration of the innings was 999 minutes, though most records show it as 970. In any case it still remains the longest in Test cricket and was only surpassed in first-class cricket 41 years later in the Ranji Trophy by Himachal Pradesh's Rajeev Nayyar.
 
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