Salute
Misbah-ul-Haq celebrating after reaching his maiden hundred at Lord’s Getty Images

He does not have a swag that Imran Khan wears. He does not have a hairdo that Shahid Afridi boasts of. He does not have the vocabulary that Rameez Raja flaunts on air. Misbah-ul-Haq won’t give you an impression that Pakistani cricketers usually do. He, as a matter of fact, is boring. He walks as if he has no energy left. His expressions suggest he doesn t care about anything. His appearance won t influence anyone. In short, he is not someone kids these days would aspire to become. He is just 42-year-old man, who still prefers playing sports to keep the fire in his belly burning. Then, what makes him special? LIVE CRICKET SCORECARD: England vs Pakistan 2016, 1st Test at Lord s

Leaders have command in their voice, spring in their walk and panache in their gestures. Misbah has very little of these. What he has is his unconquerable will to fight the conventions.

He is unattractive yet a crisp timer. He can do both: play a long, gritty innings as well as go full throttle. Simply put, he is armed with undying resilience.

Lord s has the classiest of audiences. Suited and booted, they support a show-stopper with gentle clapping followed by a standing ovation. This time, their home team played against an opposition that brought shame to the game of cricket on its home, over half a decade ago.

The summer is here. The entire nation was done debating on the inclusion of Mohammad Aamer. They wanted to get over it by injecting some dose of cricket.

Pakistan captain Misbah won the toss, elected to bat first, and the contest got underway.

The Barmy Army was at its best supporting the home side. Moreover, there were handful of Pakistani followers who, amidst all the fixing hullaballoo, proudly supported their team.

England was expected to run through Pakistan batting with their superior seam attack. In some way or the other, they did manage to do so. After a good start, all of a sudden, Pakistan were reduced to 77 for 3. The cloud of spot-fixing was still looming over the Lord s. Someone had to take away the unnecessary attention from Aamer.

Younis Khan played some sublime strokes, looking good for a hundred. One flick followed an elegant drive down the ground, the spectators enjoyed the masterful strokeplay Younis exhibited. Misbah was quietly standing at the other end.

There was nothing new in his approach. He was as awkward while running between the wickets as he always is. He nudged; he jabbed; he pushed; he was as unconventional as he has always been. Read: Misbah-ul-Haq redefines fairytale at Lord s

Younis departed. We all had a d j vu. Misbah was, yet again, stranded alone to take his team out of the woods. Pakistan were 4 for 134, with more than half the overs of the day’s play in hand. Pakistan s top four batsmen were already sitting in the Lord s famed balcony.

The English side has a reputation of obliterating the opposition batting in no time. But, with Misbah at the crease, the visitors knew they can sit back on their laurels.

He produced a trigger movement just when the pacer jumped to deliver the ball. He leaned a little and often shuffled to get right behind the ball. He soon realised that Lord s slope will bring the ball in his pad. Thus, he positioned himself likewise; and as soon as the ball shaped in with the slope, he played it fine, beating deep fine-leg.

plays fine
Misbah-ul-Haq playing the ball fine Getty Images

When off-spinner Moeen Ali was pit against him, Misbah paddle-swept the second ball he faced to fine-leg. For a change, delicacy was his remedy. England captain Alastair Cook placed the field accordingly. However, Misbah outfoxed his tactic and heaved one to vacant deep mid-wicket region.

paddle sweep
Misbah-ul-Haq playing a paddle-sweep Getty Images

Misbah s technique is such that he rarely plays the ball square of wicket. Opening the face of the bat was never his forte. He usually rocks back and punches the ball. This time, he bent backwards and scythed Steven Finn s short and wide delivery. The ball that generally goes to the right of the point fielder went just past his left. Unusual, isn t it?

On his 81st ball, he flicked a length ball on the leg side and brought up his fifty, with Pakistan at 160 for 4. The job, for the day, was only half done.

Misbah had done his homework. Nonetheless, this time, he read a different syllabus; something he hadn t followed for the better part of his cricketing career. He knew he was playing on the English soil for the first time. The preparations had to be taken to another level.

When pitched on off, he dabs it into the ground. This time, he flicked it in front of square (something we saw wristy player such as VVS Laxman do it). But, this is Misbah-ul-Haq: the man who comes from unorthodox school of batting; whose shots are not as pleasing to the eye.

Misbah was no longer playing straight. The angle at which his bat comes down, it s difficult to play to either sides of the wicket. Let alone flicking, with that strong bottom hand, opening the face of the bat would lock his shoulders. Read: Misbah-ul-Haq becomes 6th oldest Test player to score a century

Gradually, the angle of his shots got less obtuse. He played to the left of backward-point, to the third-man area. How, all of a sudden, did he play shots full of flair? His batting display got more and more pleasing as the clouds shadowing the Lord s made way for a lovely, blue sky.

The wicket lost its purchase, and the stage was all set for the Pakistani captain to carve his name on the honour s board.

Asad Shafiq played his shots, inching towards Misbah s score. Although, he was more conventional of the two. His shots were more charismatic.

But the limelight was on the 42-year-old virgin, who was on a Lord s debut.

Four boundaries in one over, Moeen was left startled: reverse-sweep and a conventional sweep followed by an encore.

reverse sweep
Misbah-ul-Haq playing a reverse-sweep Getty Images

Misbah was on 91. Finn bowled a maiden over, making us wait to live the historic moment. Cook continued Moeen at the other end: four more dot deliveries. Shafiq took a single off the first ball, and the fans cheered for Misbah. Nervous 90s, eh? an English fan must have mocked a Pakistani fan.

Three more dot deliveries until Misbah ran two. Two more singles and Misbah s column in the scorecard read 95. Someone like Virender Sehwag would bludgeoned it out of the ground to reach his hundred. But, this is Misbah, who has a reputation that of a supremely unconventional player.

He played another reverse-sweep to reach 99. End of Moeen s over.

Shafiq gave strike to Misbah in the second ball of the 77th over. Finn came round the wicket, with a leg-slip and short-leg in place. Misbah displayed nerves of steel and held himself back from gloving back-to-back short deliveries.

Finn thought he had set up Misbah, as he bowled a back-of-length delivery outside off, trying to produce an outside edge. Misbah, as watchfully he had been in the last 153 deliveries, guided it to third man and took a stroll to the other end to become the sixth oldest Test centurion.

bat swing
Misbah-ul-Haq halfheartedly swinging his bat after reaching hundred Getty Images

He halfheartedly swung the bat in elation, took off his helmet to acknowledge the crowd, saluted his teammates, and got into a position to do push-ups just to evidence the fact that age is just a number.

push up
Misbah-ul-Haq doing push-ups, proving age is just a number Getty Images

Then, what makes him special? So special that his name is still trending on social media

Now you have the answer, don t you?

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_)