Home > Features > Moments in history >

Khan Mohammad: The pacer who forged Pakistan’s first lethal pace attack with Fazal Mahmood

Khan Mohammad.
Khan Mohammad took 54 Test wickets at 23.92 in 13 Tests.

Khan Mohammad, born January 1, 1928, formed the first lethal Pakistan pace attack by paring up with Fazal Mahmood. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the life and career of the man who bowled Pakistan’s first ball in Test cricket, took the country’s first wicket and dismissed Len Hutton with the first ball he bowled to the legendary opening batsman.

The first ball and the first wicket

He sent down Pakistan’s first ball in Test cricket. Nineteen runs later that same morning, he bowled Pankaj Roy round his legs to become immortal as the first Pakistani wicket-taker. Seven runs later he castled the illustrious Vinoo Mankad as well.

However, by the end of that historic first day at Feroz Shah Kotla, he was steeped in tragedy. He had travelled to India with a groin injury, and the 20 plus overs bowled that day aggravated it seriously enough to rule him out for the rest of the tour.

Soon Fazal Mahmood assumed the role of the star fast bowler of the land, the first among many to follow. Tall, blue eyed and dashing, he became the first fast bowling icon of the country, a hero with twelve wickets in their first Test win at Lucknow.

However, Mohammad was not far behind in any department. He was tall, strapping and even quicker. He could be even more difficult to face. Yet, the injuries ensured that he  was often absent.

He returned to Test cricket only in 1954, taking time off from Lancashire League to play England at the Mecca of cricket. And bowled Len Hutton for a duck with an in-ducker, off the very first ball he bowled to the great man. Bowling on a sticky wicket, Khan Mohammad and Fazal Mahmood ran in unchanged, the former taking five for 61 from 15 overs and the latter four for 54 from 16. England, with Hutton, Reg Simpson, Peter May, Bill Edrich and Denis Compton, were reduced to 97 for nine, at which score they declared. Arthur Gilligan and Maurice Tate had bowled unchanged against South Africa at Birmingham in 1924. Three decades later, the Pakistan duo became the first pair to repeat their feat.

And even when Compton put the Pakistan bowling to sword at Nottingham, Mohammad bowled with a lot of canny control, his three for 155 reading decent enough with England’s huge total in the backdrop. By then he was entering the best phase of his career.

However, again it would be a brief peak before injuries would return to haunt him –ending his career far short of the greatness his potential deserved.

 

The early promise

Khan Mohammad was born in the old walled city of Lahore on New Year’s Day, 1928. He was the son of a timber merchant and one of four brothers.

As a child, he attended the Central Model High School in the city and it was here that he took to the game. There was one half-hour period every week during which his class had to play cricket. Teachers talked about the various aspects of the game as their wards went through their enthusiastic actions, and the interest of young Mohammad was piqued.

The major platform, however, was club cricket. Mohammad soon became a key fixture in Lahore’s thriving club cricket scene. He represented the Friends Cricket Club, before moving to the prestigious Universal Cricket Club, the leading team of the city’s league circuit. The cricket was competitive and the bowling performances remained impressive. Mohammad generated pace without losing control of line and length and could bowl long spells at searing speed. At the age of 19, he was picked for Northern India to play in the Ranji Trophy. It was the era before partition.

In the three zonal matches of the 1946-47 season, Mohammad captured ten wickets at 23 apiece. However, at this stage, India and Pakistan separated. Mohammad, studying History and Economics at Islamia College Lahore, played for Punjab University during the two following seasons. It was at Islamia College that he partnered Fazal Mahmood for the first time.

International exposure

In 1948-49, John Goddard’s West Indians visited India for a Test series. On their way, they played an unofficial ‘Test ‘against Pakistan in November 1948 at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore. Mian Mohammad Saeed, the Pakistan captain, preferred Munawar Ali Khan to partner Fazal Mahmood in the game. So, Mohammad performed the duties of the twelfth man.

However, the young man remained among wickets for Punjab University and made it to the tour of Ceylon in early 1949. Using the heavy atmosphere of the island to his advantage, he captured 14 wickets in the two unofficial ‘Tests’ and combined into a lethal partnership with Mahmood. From then till the end of his career, when not interrupted by injuries, he remained the first choice fast bowler to start off proceedings with Mahmood.

In the summer of 1950, Mohammad was a part of the Pakistan Eaglets team to visit England. He impressed enough during the tour to be approached by Somerset.

Returning that winter, Mohammad returned to Colombo and bowled for a combined Ceylon, Indian and Pakistan XI, capturing five for 127 against a strong Commonwealth XI, his wickets including that of Frank Worrell.

The following summer of 1951, he travelled to England yet again, and played a game for Somerset against the touring South Africans. It was a thriller of a match that the Springboks won by 24 runs, but not before Mohammad had shaken them with three first innings wickets including the great Dudley Nourse and Jack Cheetham.

It was his intention to serve the three-year qualification period and become eligible for the county, and he had also decided to migrate to England. However, at this stage, he was invited to play for Pakistan against Nigel Howard’s Englishmen in the winter of 1951. There were two unofficial ‘Tests’.

At Lahore, the match was drawn and Mohammad captured five for 84. In the historic game at Karachi that followed, Fazal Mahmood took six first innings wickets and Mohammad three to skittle England for 123. After Pakistan themselves had been restricted to 130, Mahmood captured five for 88 in the second innings, and the home team clinched a crucial four wicket victory. It was perhaps the single most important performance which fast-tracked Pakistan into the Test world. By the next winter, Mohammad was bowling to Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy at Delhi.

Best days

After the impressive showing in England in 1954, Mohammad entered the best phase of his career. When India visited for a monumental bore of a series in 1954-55, he claimed four for 42 at Dacca, five for 74 at Bhawalpur, four for 79 at Peshawar and five for 72 at Karachi. He finished the series at the top of the bowling charts from either team, with 22 wickets at 15.86.

This was followed by the visit of the New Zealand side in 1955-56. After the first three days of the final Test at Dacca had been washed away, Mohammad swung the ball to unplayable degrees, capturing six for 21 from 16.2 overs to knock the visitors over for 70. They held on for a draw in the second innings, somehow managing to stick it out scoring 69 for six in 90 overs. Mohammad’s analysis read 30-19-2-20.

The next year, Ian Johnson’s Australians arrived to play one solitary Test in Karachi. Mohammad and Fazal repeated their Lord’s feat by bowling unchanged for 53.1 overs in the first innings, bowling the visitors out for 80. Pakistan won by nine wickets and Mohammad finished with match figures of seven for 112.

The end of his career

But injuries returned with a vengeance. The tour to West Indies in 1957-58 was a sorry affair. A couple of listless, cramp, sprain and swelling ridden Tests saw Gary Sobers pile up 365 and Mohammad bowl 54 overs without capturing a wicket.

So, after 13 Tests, Mohammad’s international career was over. His tally read unimpressive 54 wickets at 23.92. However, there had been promise of a much longer and greater period at the top. In the end, it remained a tale of what might have been.

Mohammad was marginally faster than his famed partner Fazal Mahmood, but he was not really much quicker than fast medium. Most of his victims were bowled or leg-before, and that testified to both his accuracy and pace. His stock ball came in to the right hander, and his bowling was marked by clever changes of pace and some natural, uncomfortable lift obtained by sending the ball down from his considerable height.

Imtiaz Ahmed, who kept wickets to Mohammad, said later that while Fazal was famed for his leg-cutters, Mohammad brought the ball in appreciably. Fazal Mahmood and Khan Mohammad formed the first of many lethal bowling pairs of the country.

He was also known to be a thorough team-man.

After retirement, Mohammad coached in Canada in the 1960s, picking up some coaching qualifications from Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) MCC along the way. He also coached in Sri Lanka for a brief while. He returned to Pakistan for short periods, sharing his experience in pace camps. One such summer camp was held in 1984, and was attended by a gangly young left-armer called Wasim Akram. He also worked with the Pakistan board in various capacities, and acted as a manager for some of the junior sides.

Mohammad spent much of his later life in England and ran a travel agency in Ealing, West London. He returned to Pakistan quite frequently and could sometimes be spotted at the Gaddafi Stadium on match days.

Khan Mohammad passed away in July, 2009.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (14:00 IST)   at Port Elizabeth

Sri Lanka tour of New Zealand, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (03:30 IST)   at Christchurch

India tour of Australia, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (05:00 IST)   at Melbourne

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Jan 2, 2015 (14:00 IST)   at Cape Town

Sri Lanka tour of New Zealand, 2014-15

Jan 3, 2015 (03:30 IST)   at Wellington

More

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 19, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

New Zealand won by 68 runs

India tour of Australia, 2014-15

Dec 17, 2014  at Woolloongabba, Brisbane

Australia won by 4 wkts

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 17, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

New Zealand won by 7 runs

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Dec 17, 2014  at Centurion

South Africa won by an innings and 220 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Dec 16, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 87 runs

Photos

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane

Videos

Ind vs Aus: Dhoni analyses the 4-wicket loss at Brisbane

Live Cricket Score Ranji Trophy 2014-15, Round 3, Day 1 — All matches

India’s collapse against Australia on 2nd Test at Brisbane: Did the visitors really bat badly on Day 4?

India vs Australia 2014-15, 2nd Test at Brisbane: Marks out of 10 for the hosts

India vs Australia 2014-15, Brisbane: India marks out of 10

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane: India’s tail tales

Anil Kumble Australia India Moments in history Ricky Ponting South Africa

Alastair Cook sacked in ‘hugely disrespectful’ manner: Andrew Strauss

India vs Australia 2014-15, 3rd Test at Melbourne: Joe Burns says dream come true to play for Australia

Australia celebrate win at Brisbane vs India

Big Bash League 2014-15: Melbourne Renegades want Muttiah Muralitharan back

South Africa vs West Indies 2014-15: Kenroy Peters, Miguel Cummins in line to replace injured Kemar Roach

Pakistan vs New Zealand ODI series 2014: A look back at the series

Murali Vijay’s 144 among most runs scored by an Indian on Day 1 of overseas Test

Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and others scoring century on their Captaincy Debut in Test cricket

Batsman given hit wicket after mobile phone falls on stumps

India vs Australia 2014-15, 2nd Test at Brisbane: Highlights

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

682 Posts | 6 Fans

Video: Phil Hughes suffers head injury, collapses on field during New South Wales vs South Australia tie

प्रसिद्ध कथक नृत्यांगना सितारा देवी नहीं रही

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Bigg Boss 8: Ali Quli Mirza, Renee Dhyani, Upen Patel, Praneet Bhatt, Sonali Raut – who should be evicted this week?

Revealed: The reason why Kishore Kumar’s biopic starring Ranbir Kapoor won’t feature Katrina Kaif!

अभिनेत्री प्रियंका चोपड़ा ने स्वच्छ भारत अभियान में हिस्सा लिया

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here