On August 28, 1967, Pakistan gave a monumental fight back courtesy some inspired batting by Asif Iqbal and Intikhab Alam. The duo added 190 for the ninth wicket against England at The Oval. Sarang Bhalerao goes in rewind mode.
At 53 for seven in the second innings, the threat of an innings defeat loomed large over Pakistan at The Oval in 1967 as they were still trailing England by 171 runs. Ken Higgs’ opening foray had Pakistan reeling and it was only a matter of time before the innings folded. Or was it?
The match until that point
England bowled first at The Oval and were without Geoffrey Boycott, who suffered a throat infection. Brian Close’s decision was vindicated by the bowlers as they dismissed Pakistan for a paltry 216. Geoff Arnold picked up five wickets, while Higgs accounted for three scalps. Mushtaq Mohammad top-scored with 66 and Saeed Ahmed scored 38. Asif Iqbal and Intikhab Alam scored twenties (26 and 20 respectively) but the overall batting failed to click as a unit.
England replied strongly and secured a big lead of 224 runs. Ken Barrington scored 142. This was his 19th Test century and his third in the successive games against Pakistan. By scoring his first ton at The Oval, Barrington became the only cricketer to score tons on each of England’s Test venues.
Barrington’s innings was instrumental in putting England in a commanding position in the third Test. His sublime drives, watertight technique and ability to deal with the short deliveries were the ingredients of his colossal knock. England were bowled out for 440.
The Pakistan collapse and the fightback
Higgs dismissed Mohammad Ilyas (1), Saeed Ahmed (0) and Majid Khan (0) in quick succession. Wasim Bari fell for 12. Ghulam Abbas scored a four-ball duck and was dismissed by Higgs. The onus of resurrecting the Pakistan innings was on the Mohammad brothers: Hanif and Mushtaq. As soon as they fell, hopes of a comeback were very slim.
In walked Asif to join Javed Burki. After putting 12 for the eighth wicket, Burki was bowled by Derek Underwood. At 65 for eight, Pakistan were still 159 runs shy from making England bat again. What followed was an amazing counter-attack from the Pakistan batsmen. Asif, the nimble footed batsmen played exhilarating shots while dogged resistance from Intikhab kept the England bowlers at bay.
Wisden reports, “Hitting boldly, Asif excelled with the drive and hook. He raced to 50 out of 56 and Higgs, Arnold and Underwood, so supreme at one stage, all suffered during his drastic punishment. Intikhab’s share when the stand reached three figures was 28. A sparkling off-drive from Higgs gave Asif his fourteenth four and took him to his first Test century in two hours, nineteen minutes.”
When Asif reached his Test century, The Oval was marauded by Pakistan fans. There were joyous scenes and a festive atmosphere engulfed the ground. Pakistan were still way behind in the match, but the ninth wicket stand powered by Asif’s pristine strokeplay made the day for the fans. Wisden writes: “Hundreds of Pakistanis raced to the wicket and hoisted Asif shoulder high. The game was held up for five minutes and when a squad of police rescued him, the poor fellow was bruised and battered.”
Since England were still in the ascendancy, Close kept an attacking field expecting the batsmen to make an error. That worked in favour of Asif, who went for his strokes and fought fire with fire. Higgs, the man who snared the top-order, was reduced to a non-entity. He was smoked for five boundaries in his two overs, which had England captain at his wits’ end.
Finally, it took a moment of inspiration from Close himself to put a period to the 190-run ninth wicket stand — which was the then world record. Close had Asif stumped for a compelling 146. Wisden reports “Close entered the attack for the first time during the innings and with his fifth ball, a short off break from round the wicket, lured Asif far out of his ground for Knott to stump him. Asif spent three hours, ten minutes for his 146 out of 202 and he hit two sixes and twenty-one fours. Intikhab, last out, followed in the next over, bowled by Titmus for a noble 51 included six 4′s.”
Asif’s 146 was the highest score by any batsman batting at No. 9. Pakistan achieved a slender lead of 31 runs. Asif was not done yet. He picked up Close and Colin Cowdrey in the second essay, but England romped home comfortably by eight wickets. Asif was named amongst the bowlers (for picking up five wickets in the game) and the batsmen of the match.
The ninth wicket partnership of 190 by Asif and Intikhab remained a record for 31 years before Mark Boucher and Pat Symcox added 195 against Pakistan at Johannesburg in 1998. Symcox scored a century batting at No. 10.
Pakistan 216 (Mushtaq Mohammad 66; Geoff Arnold 5 for 58) and 255 (Asif Iqbal 146, Intikhab Alam 51; Ken Higgs 5 for 58) lost to England 440 (Ken Barrington 142, Tom Graveney 77; Mushtaq Mohammad 4 for 80) and 34 for 2 (Ken Barrington 13*; Asif Iqbal 2 for 14) by 8 wickets.
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)