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Shabash! Pakistan

Midway to a sensation, Fazal ascends the Oval steps after helping to dismiss England for 130 in their first innings of the 1954 Test match

Pakistan became an independent country on 14 August 1947. At a meeting of the old Imperial Cricket Conference at Lords on 28 July 1952, proposed by India and seconded by the MCC, the fledgling nation was admitted to the Conference and their initial Test series were confirmed, those being a tour of India in 1952/53, and of England in 1954.

India had toured England in 1952 and been defeated 3-0 in a four Test series which, had rain not ruined the final Test, would certainly have been 4-0. The fact that the inaugural series just a few months later went in favour of the Indians suggested that the Pakistanis would have a torrid time in England, a view that was reinforced as the England side was growing in stature after the war. In 1953, Coronation year, amidst great jubilation at the Oval, England finally regained the Ashes for the first time since Douglas Jardine and his “Bodyline” tactics had wrested them away from the Australians more than twenty years previously.

The tourists arrived, following a three week sea voyage, at the beginning of May of 1954. Their captain AH Kardar had, as Abdul Hafeez, played Test cricket with the Indian tourists to England in 1946 and had also played for Oxford University and Warwickshire but he apart the young and, by definition, inexperienced tourists were used to hot dry weather and matting wickets. It was to be of absolutely no help to them at all that their visit coincided with the wettest English summer for fifty years. So miserable a summer was it that Yorkshireman AA Thomson was moved to write “they (the Pakistani tourists) were dropped into an English May, pretty much like crashed pilots bailing out into a frozen sea”

The tourists were not, however, totally without experience in English conditions. In 1953 the newly founded Pakistani Board of Control had made what proved to be a most prudent investment in sending a young squad to England to be coached by Alf Gover and at the same time gain some experience of English conditions. Gover was impressed by the squad as a whole but particularly by Hanif Mohammad and Fazal Mahmood. In the case of Fazal he considered him to be a wonderful bowler albeit one with an unorthodox action which involved a kink in his delivery stride. After watching Fazal’s in swingers and leg cutters at close quarters Gover wisely decided not to try and iron out the kink although he did spend a lot of time with Fazal adding an outswinger to his already impressive armoury.

The first Test was ruined by rain without either side having an opportunity to grasp the initiative and the third was similarly spoiled although on this occasion the weather had helped the Pakistanis avoid a crushing defeat similar to that which they had suffered in the second Test when, with the great Denis Compton recording his highest ever Test score of 278, England had triumphed by an innings and plenty.

In the lead up to the final Test at the Oval the English press were openly questioning the wisdom of the decision to award Test status to the Pakistanis and the result of the fourth Test was taken as a foregone conclusion. One man disagreed, Alf Gover, but his lone voice was foolishly ignored. While the first three Tests might in isolation have provided some justification for the prevailing view it overlooked the fact that prior to the final Test, England apart, only Yorkshire had beaten the tourists and even that was in circumstances where Pakistan fought back superbly after a poor start brought about as much by the astute captaincy of Norman Yardley than any failings of their own players.

The England selectors, with one eye on the defence of the Ashes the following winter, decided to experiment (although only with the bowling) and Frank Tyson and Peter Loader were called up to make their debuts. With hindsight while this gave England a rather long tail, with Godfrey Evans at 6 and Johnny Wardle at 7, it cannot really be said to have weakened the side given the success Tyson was to enjoy just a few months on and indeed his promising start at the Oval.

Before looking at the match itself it is worth looking at the two teams if for no other reason, in the case of England, than to see just how strong they were. The batting lineup was, realistically, at full strength consisting as it did of Len Hutton, Reg Simpson, Peter May and Tom Graveney as well as Compton. As noted Evans was at least one place too high at six but as a scorer of two Test centuries he was no mug with the bat. The five bowlers included Wardle, Tyson and Loader together with the metronomic Lancashire quick bowler Brian Statham. The quintet was completed by Glamorgan’s Jim McConnon who, in taking more than 100 wickets that season at 15 had fully merited the opportunity and while the decision to take him, rather than Jim Laker, to Australia that winter proved to be a mistake he was a quality off spinner. It was undoubtedly an experimental England side that took the field but it would be unfair to call it understrength as, looking back from the 21st century, the substitution of the all round durability of Trevor Bailey for one of the bowlers is the only obvious change to be made.

As to the Pakistan side they, in the circumstances, deserve a fuller introduction – the Oval heroes were:-

Hanif Mohammad

One of the two Pakistanis who doesn’t really need an introduction. The “Little Master” was just 19 and comfortably top scored for his side in the series albeit his aggregate for his eight innings was just 181 at an average of 22. Hanif’s best days lay ahead but on the tour as a whole he created an excellent impression.


An aggressive right handed opening batsman who was to play as many as 25 Tests for Pakistan. He scored only 51 runs in the three Tests he played in 1954 and although in the future he had some good days there were not enough for his career average to be more than 25.

Waqar Hasan

A right handed batsman with a crowd pleasing strokemaking style Waqar was to play 21 Tests in his career. He averaged more than 31 over that career but although he played in all four Tests of this tour he averaged no more than 14.

Maqsood Ahmed

Nominally an all rounder although his 16 Test career brought his right arm medium pace bowling just three wickets. His stubborn right handed batting was marginally more successful but even then gave him a career average of only 19. That said on this tour he was, with 116, the second highest scorer in the Tests and played bravely throughout.

Imtiaz Ahmed

The tourists wicketkeeper who went on to play in 41 Tests. He was a fine keeper and a batsman who was to average almost 30 over his career. He was a particularly good player of fast bowling. On this tour he averaged 17 but although he got a few starts he didn’t get past 33.

AH Kardar

The Captain played 23 times for Pakistan and three times for India. He was an aggressive left handed batsman and an orthodox slow left arm bowler whose overall statistics don’t adequately reflect how important his experience was to the sides for which he played.

Wazir Mohammad

Hanif’s elder brother was another right handed batsman who played for his country 20 times. He played in just two of the Tests in this series and although his overall Test record is, at 27, reasonable, that was largely due to his enjoying a purple patch against the West Indies in the autumn of his career

Fazal Mahmood

There have been one or two medium fast right arm bowlers who were arguably as good as Fazal but none better. He was a master of swing and cut and Pakistan’s start to international cricket would have been a nightmare without him. Once he lost his potency at the end of the 1950’s there was a long dark age for the Pakistani game which lasted for well over a decade.


A dogged lower order batsman and orthodox slow left arm bowler Shuja’s Test career brought him a batting average of just 15 and an average haul of only one wicket per match at a cost of 40 runs. That he played as many as 19 Tests is testament to his obduracy and determination.

Zulfiqar Ahmed

In just nine Test matches Zulfiqar averaged 33 with the bat and 18 with the ball. He was an off spinner (with the first ever doosra?) and determined right hand bat. All his wickets bar one were taken in a series against New Zealand in 1955/56 and he only appeared twice in the Tests in 1954.

Mahmood Hussain

Mahmood was a big hearted right arm fast medium bowler whose 27 Tests brought him 68 wickets at 38 apiece. The numbers are not impressive but he was an excellent foil for Fazal and an important part of the sides he represented.

Inevitably in such a wet summer the start of play on the first day at the Oval was delayed due to the wet conditions. Kardar won the toss and although he must have had serious misgivings about doing so chose to bat. The conditions were too wet to help the bowlers very much but the visitors still contrived a dreadful start. Hanif was lbw to Statham for nought from the last delivery of the first over of the innings and Tyson didn’t have to wait beyond his third over for his first Test wickets when he removed Alimuddin and Maqsood with successive deliveries. When Loader came into the attack and removed Waqar Pakistan were reeling at 26-4. Kardar then succeeded in exerting a calming influence on Imtiaz and for a while those two looked secure until at 51 Imtiaz couldn’t resist a Tyson bouncer and succeeded only in gloving the ball to Evans for a routine catch. When, before the score could move on, Wazir tried to take on Simpson’s arm and failed and Fazal was caught behind from a good length delivery from Loader Pakistan were back on the rack at 51-7.

In Shujauddin Kardar had the man for a crisis. Calm and unflappable Shuja batted for almost two hours altogether and enabled Kardar to look for runs without taking risks and the score had advanced to 77 when Tyson produced an unplayable delivery to remove the Pakistani captain. After that first Zulfiqar (16) and then Mahmood (23) hit the ball with good effect to add 56 priceless runs with Shuja for the last two wickets. Shuja was to remain unbeaten on 16 – his “reward” would be promotion to open the batting with Hanif in the second innings. There was just time for England to reach 1-0 at the close and while the tourists cannot have been happy with their 133 it could have been worse.

To the surprise of noone the second day was washed out so it was the Saturday morning, coincidentally Pakistan’s independence day, before England could resume. Fazal in a moment of superstition and, as things turned out, inspiration, put on the same flannels he had worn when taking twelve wickets against India in his country’s first Test victory the previous winter. The sun was shining when play began 45 minutes late and Mahmood quickly removed Simpson. Hutton and May decided to take the attack to the bowlers but at 26 Hutton edged Fazal high behind the stumps which Imtiaz did well to run back to take. When Compton started to struggle both he and May went into their shells and at one stage Fazal bowled 11 maidens in 15 overs.

England went into lunch with just two wickets down and the sun continued to shine. After the resumption the drying pitch, as Hutton had foreseen, became increasingly spiteful and May and Graveney fell to Fazal before Mahmood removed Evans. With the tail in and five down for 69 Compton became more aggressive. Wardle and Tyson did their best to stay with Compton who was eventually eighth out at 115 for 53 – he was Fazal’s sixth victim when he was caught behind playing inside the line of a delivery he was trying to steer through the covers. Mahmood returned to remove Statham at 116 and although McConnon and Loader took the score to 130 the Glamorgan off spinner then became Mahmood’s fourth victim. Fazal had bowled right through the England innings and had taken 6 for 53.

When Pakistan came out to bat again Hanif was accompanied by the stoic Shuja. Four times Hanif struck Statham to the boundary before he was out for 19. The measure of Shuja’s watchfulness was that at that stage he was not yet off the mark. Shuja, now with Waqar, proceeded cautiously before he was out at 38 followed swiftly by Maqsood. Pakistan closed on the third day at 63-4 but Imtiaz went next morning after adding just a single and Pakistan must have felt, on limping to 82-8, that they had squandered a fine opportunity. Wazir was now joined by Zulfiqar and the tourists luck held and it was to be 58 runs and almost two hours later when Wardle finally caught the edge of Zulfiqar’s bat and May held the catch. With just Mahmood left Wazir finally unpacked his shots and a further 28 were added before Wardle removed Mahmood leaving Wazir unbeaten on 42 after two hours forty minutes of resisting everything England’s attack could throw at him.Wardle was the pick of the England bowlers taking 7 for 56, his career best in a home Test.

Although England set out in their second innings requiring what would need to be the highest score of the game there was a general expectation that 168 would not prove difficult to reach. All Pakistan, and Fazal in particular, knew that Hutton was the main threat and Fazal had hatched a scheme for his dismissal which he later said went exactly according to plan, the England captain being pulled all over the crease before Fazal had him caught behind off the very outswinger that, without Englishman Gover, he would not have had available to him. The total was just 15 when Hutton was dismissed but there was to be a half century partnership between May and Simpson before the latter gifted Zulifiqar his first Test wicket with a simple caught and bowled chance. Compton, England’s rock in the first innings, then emerged and he and May made batting look simple for the first time in the game May in particular starting to treat Mahmood with some disdain as England seemed to feel the game could be finished that day.

As May and Compton went serenely on to 109 for 2 it seemed that Fazal alone still believed that his side could win. Kardar, at the end of an over from Mahmood began his routine to change the bowling. Fazal, alarmed at this, took the somewhat daring step (given that Kardar was something of an autocrat) of running up to his captain and snatching the ball from him. Kardar wanted to play for stumps and hope rain might save his side overnight. Fazal was having none of it and went back to his mark sending Kardar off with a wave of his hand to nowhere in particular but where Kardar thought was intended to be gully. If Kardar was unhappy at his leading bowler’s conduct it wouldn’t have lasted long as from the very next delivery Fazal induced a false shot from May and Kardar, still where Fazal had unintentionally placed him, accepted the chance.

Hutton at this stage made what may have been the mistake that sealed England’s fate as he promoted the hard hitting Evans to five in the order still, clearly, assuming England could wrap the game up before the close. Fazal was far too clever for Evans and bowled him behind his legs for just 3. One run later Shuja trapped Graveney in front of his stumps and when Fazal had Compton caught behind at 121 in the penultimate over of the day the match situation had been turned on its head.

Next morning there were just a few hundred at the Oval to watch the denoument and, hardly surprisingly, most of them were from the sub continent. Almost straight away Wardle, the only man realistically capable of getting those 47 runs, was put down at second slip off Mahmood. If Pakistani heads dropped at that Fazal soon lifted them by having Tyson caught behind the stumps and then this most intelligent of bowlers, after having a good look at Wardle, told Shuja to go to backward short leg and immediately Wardle steered the ball into his grateful hands. Next over, without addition to the score, Mahmood removed Loader to take his only wicket of the innings and the game was up for England. McConnon, who had a dislocated finger on his bottom hand, tried to organise the strike but when he pushed a Fazal delivery into the covers and called Statham for a sharp single Hanif hit the single stump he could see with McConnon well short and the game was over. Against the odds Pakistan had achieved the still unique distinction of winning a Test and squaring a series on their first visit to England.

Fazal had taken 6 for 46 to go with his first innings haul – he had bowled 30 overs his only break being for four overs. The visitors were understandably ecstatic – Hutton was to say later, and this was a man who was in the England dressing room just a day less than a year previously when the Ashes were regained and was to be the victorious skipper when they were retained a few months later, that he had seen no happier dressing room. Fazal was to be lauded quite literally all his way home to Lahore the train that took him from Karachi to his home city having to make a number of unscheduled stops as people laid down in front of the train in order to bring it to a halt to enable them to play homage to their hero.

It is illuminating, given some of the controversies that affect International cricket today, to look at what happened after the Oval victory. Pakistan’s closest and earliest rivals, India, had been the first team vanquished by Kardar’s side and a match winning performance by Fazal. Indo-Pakistanis Tests were to become characterised by a desire to avoid defeat at all costs but it was to be more than a quarter of a century before Pakistan, or India for that matter, won one of their contests again. Against England it would also be more than 25 years before Pakistan were victorious again. As for Australia amidst huge celebration and, brilliantly and inevitably, a 13 wicket haul from Fazal, Pakistan won the inaugural Test between the two countries in 1956. The next Pakistani victory was two decades later. Against West Indies Pakistan played back to back series in 1957/58 and 1958/59. The first series in the Caribbean saw Pakistan go 3-0 down before winning the final Test with 8 for 118 for Fazal. A series victory by 2-1 followed at home with Fazal, in the two victories, taking first 7 for 124 and then 12 for 100. The next victory over West Indies was 17 years away.

Throughout the 1960’s only New Zealand were defeated by Pakistan yet while there may have been murmerings there was no “controversy” as such over the Test status of either nation and indeed both were encouraged by the rest of the ICC (an organisation of which South Africa was not then a member) and by the end of the 1980’s both could put forward a compelling case for having been, albeit briefly, the strongest side in World cricket. In the interim as well as the Test series they had contested various touring parties of different strengths had visited calculated no doubt to help them reach the pinnacle they managed after not so very long. There are sound political reasons why Zimbabwe have not been treated in the same way but no justification at all for Bangladesh having been left to struggle alone in the way in which they have a situation which, if recent actions by the ACB are repeated, is only going to get worse.


That’s a great piece! Made for an enjoyable read. 🙂

Comment by Fusion | 12:00am GMT 27 December 2009

Great read Martin – especially for me, as I included Mahmood in my top 25.

Comment by chasingthedon | 12:00am GMT 27 December 2009

Long Before Imran khan came, there was this man named AH Kardar who built and shaped Pakistan Cricket. Great Article, it was like reading a chapter from the history of Pakistan Cricket. Thank You.

Comment by Sanz | 12:00am GMT 27 December 2009

Lovely. Brought memories of the first Test I ever saw 49 years ago. Four of these Pakistanis Fazal, Hanif, Imtiaz and Mehmood Hussain played then and two others Alimuddin and Shujauddin were in the squad.

A small suggestion if you please. Could we have a better picture of Fazal. I could scan and post one (or more) if you want.

Comment by SJS | 12:00am GMT 27 December 2009

An entertaining read once again, fred. The background data gives the article a nice sense of context. I knew Pakistan won a test here on their first tour, for instance, but not that they had such a long wait for their second victory. I’m really enjoying CW tackling the classics.

Comment by BoyBrumby | 12:00am GMT 28 December 2009

very nice article …..thank you for sharing.

Comment by Faisal1985 | 12:00am GMT 29 December 2009

Fantastic read 🙂

Comment by Xuhaib | 12:00am GMT 29 December 2009

Great piece..what I needed to read after the way the team hurts me every time they play these days

Comment by Black_Warrior | 12:00am GMT 31 December 2009

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