Having had to wait more than two decades for their first win, Dera Ismail Khan registered their second and third win in consecutive weeks © Getty (Representational Photo)
Having had to wait more than two decades for their first win, Dera Ismail Khan registered their second and third win in consecutive weeks © Getty Images (Representational Photo)

On December 4, 1964, Dera Ismail Khan (DIK) made cricket history, losing their maiden First-Class match to Pakistan Railways by the record margin of an innings and 851 runs. Humiliated, they vanished from the scene for almost twenty years, and for some time after their return to regular cricket in 1983, their results showed little improvement. They persevered, though — and on 27th December 1987 they finally recorded their first win. Michael Jones looks back at the game.

Background

In 1947, the Imperial Cricket Conference, as the game’s worldwide governing body was then called, formally stipulated the conditions which should be satisfied in order for a match to be considered ‘First-Class’. Most of the conditions were universal: the teams must be of eleven players, the match played over two innings and with a scheduled duration of at least three days. The crucial one — judging that the teams were of a high enough standard to merit the classification — was left as the responsibility of the national board of the country in which the match took place.

For some countries, this did not present too much of a problem: their First-Class tournaments were by then well established, and new teams admitted only rarely. Tasmania were admitted to the Sheffield Shield in 1977 (although they had played First-Class matches outside the Shield for almost a century before that), Durham to the County Championship in 1992, and although both were seen as easy pickings for their first few years in their respective tournaments, both would eventually go on to win the title.

Things were more complicated in Pakistan. The Quaid-e-Azam Trophy was the main First-Class competition, but in 1960 the Ayub Trophy was instituted, and also given First-Class status. Neither tournament maintained a fixed set of teams: many came and went from one season to the next, and with some of them taking the names of provinces, others cities and others companies or government departments, it was understandable that Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) might have lost track of them; one can only speculate as to whether it was an oversight which led to a team from the town of DIK being admitted to the fourth season of the Ayub Trophy (after it had not been held in 1963-64). Presumably whoever thought the team deserving of First-Class status had never seen them play — indeed, their showing against Pakistan Railways was enough to make any observer wonder whether the DIK players had even set foot on a cricket field before.

The record defeat

Had an author submitted the scorecard of the Railways vs DIK match to his publishers as a cricket-themed horror story, they would have rejected it as absurd. Railways piled up 910 for six, led by 337 not out from Pervez Akhtar — a mediocre batsman, who failed to match that score in the other 17 innings of his First-Class career combined; they were so confident of their ability to bowl DIK out twice that they didn’t bother declaring until well into the third day of a three day match. Such confidence was justified: Afaq Khan, on his First-Class debut, destroyed DIK with seven for 14 in the first innings, before Ahad Khan trumped him with scarcely credible figures of nine for seven in the second. DIK were all out for 32 and 27, having lost all 20 wickets in only 28 overs, and were defeated by an innings and 851 runs — far and away the most one-sided match in the history of First-Class cricket.

The comeback

DIK were scheduled to play Rawalpindi Yellows in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy the same season, and Rawalpindi in the following year’s Ayub Trophy; they chose to forfeit both matches, presumably deciding that to do so would be less embarrassing than to see a repeat of their disastrous performance against Railways. That, it seemed, was that — until 1983, when the decision was made to admit the team to the BCCP Patron’s Trophy. All the players from the 1964 debacle had long since retired — none of them played any other First-Class match — so perhaps their successors could do better?

With the ball, they did: Hazara were bowled out for 220 in less than a day, with no batsman managing more than 57. By stumps, though, there were already signs that the “new” DIK’s batting was no better than that of the old, as they were reduced to 27 for six, which soon became 39 all out the next morning. They managed 103 at the second attempt, the first three-figure total in the team’s history, but still lost by an innings.

Their second match showed slightly more promise — they reached 150 in the first innings, with captain Arif Khattak recording the first individual half-century by a DIK batsman; his eventual 59 exactly matched the team’s match aggregate against Railways. Peshawar declared their reply at 257 for three, though, and DIK lost by an innings once again.

Further thrashings by Rawalpindi and Lahore Division followed, and at the end of 1983-84, DIK had still not exceeded 150 in an innings, and Hazara remained the only team whom they had bowled out. Khattak had recorded another individual milestone, though: in Rawalpindi’s total of 406 for eight (which sufficed for victory by an innings and 210 runs), he took five for 46 — the first ever five wicket innings haul for DIK.

They tried again the following year, and rematches against Rawalpindi and Peshawar followed much the same pattern, with DIK failing to reach 100 in four innings. In the meantime Hazara had also suffered innings defeats to the same two teams, so when they faced each other it was a race to the bottom.

The “match of the minnows” started promisingly for DIK as they bowled Hazara out for 115. Having already ensured that they could not be required to follow-on, DIK had reached a major milestone in their First-Class history: the first time they had forced the opposition to bat twice. They proceeded to go one step further: by scoring 124 themselves, they gained their first ever first innings lead. When Hazara managed 124 in their second innings, DIK could have dreamed of victory, but it was not to be: Mohammad Irfan (the DIK keeper, and no known relation to the current Pakistan bowler of the same name) stood alone, going in at number three and remaining unbeaten on 21, but Imran Khaliq cleaned up the rest with six for 28, and Hazara won by 17 runs; last wicket partnerships of 17 and 20 in their two innings had proved crucial. Still, by DIK’s previous standards it constituted major progress.

In the 1985-86 Patron’s Trophy, DIK were outclassed by Rawalpindi and Peshawar once again, taking only five wickets in the process of losing both matches by an innings. As before, their match against Hazara was played for the wooden spoon in the group. Hazara won the toss and chose to field; Sardar Badshah made 65, breaking Khattak’s record for the highest score for DIK, and added 99 for the fifth wicket with Rab Nawaz, narrowly missing out on recording the team’s maiden century partnership.

They eventually posted 214, comfortably beating their previous highest total of 150. The loss of the second day’s play made a draw the most likely result, but there were still points to be gained for the first innings lead, and when Hazara were pegged back from 152 for three to 179 for seven, it looked like DIK might claim them. It was not to be — Hazara squeezed home, ending on 221 for eight, but at least DIK had avoided outright defeat in a First-Class match for the first time in their history. It was also the last: although the team continued to play in the Patron’s Trophy, it had its First-Class status rescinded from the 1986-87 season, and they have never played another First-Class match since.

In December 1987, in the second season of the Patron’s Trophy as a minor tournament, their perseverance paid off at last: DIK actually won a match. Hazara were the opposition once again, and DIK got off to a promising start, bowling them out for 87; things took a turn for the worse, though, when they were skittled for 68 themselves.

In Hazara’s second innings Mohammad Qaiser stood alone, making 92 out of the team’s 146 to ensure DIK would have to chase 166 to win, the highest total of the match. Bilal Asim was the hero for DIK: having already taken five for 17 in the first innings, he now took centre stage again with 78, after which Rizwan Babar’s unbeaten 45 steered them home by one wicket. Twenty-three years after the Railways humiliation, DIK had finally savoured the sweet taste of victory. There is no record of an open-top bus parade being held in the town, but perhaps the players may have felt they deserved one.

What followed

DIK had no chance to rest on their laurels, as they had another match against Rawalpindi a few days later. They failed to emulate their success against Hazara, but at least they managed slightly better than they had in previous outings against the same opposition: they bowled Rawalpindi out for the first time, and even forced them to bat twice, although the margin of victory was only reduced to ten wickets.

In the 1990s DIK formed an under 19 team, which entered the national championships, while their senior team was admitted to Grade II of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, still below First-Class level. They managed a draw against Lahore City C in their first season, as well as a default win over Hazara. Having had to wait more than two decades for their first win, their second and third came in consecutive weeks: in October 1991 they beat Kohat by five wickets, and quickly followed that with an 88 run victory over Mardan. They have continued to play at minor level since, and in 2014 finished third out of five teams in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas Region of the Inter-District Senior Tournament. Perhaps today’s DIK could even take on a First-Class team without fear of total humiliation.

Brief scores:

Hazara 87 (Bilal Asim 5 for 17) and 146 (Mohammad Qaiser 92; Atiq Ahmed 5 for 31) lost to Dera Ismail Khan 68 (Manzoor Ahmed 6 for 26) and 168 for nine (Bilal Asim 78, Rizwan Babar 45*; Manzoor Ahmed 6 for 59) by 1 wicket.

(Michael Jones’s writing focuses on cricket history and statistics, with occasional forays into the contemporary game)