Shadab Kabir has to be one of the most undeserving winners of the Man of the Match award © Getty Images
Shadab Kabir has to be one of the most undeserving winners of the Man of the Match award © Getty Images

September 1, 1996: After Nick Knight carried his bat through the England innings, Pakistan fought hard at Trent Bridge to pull off a close victory. The surprise came after the match, when adjudicator Tom Graveney named the entire Pakistan team ‘Men’ of the Match — including those who had barely contributed to the victory. Abhishek Mukherjee recalls a bizarre award.

England had already clinched the three-match Texaco Trophy, winning convincingly at Old Trafford and Edgbaston. Playing for little more than honour, Pakistan drafted in opening batsman Shahid Anwar, middle-order batsman Shadab Kabir, and teenage pace sensation Shahid Nazir.

Wasim Akram removed Alec Stewart early, and introduced Nazir soon afterwards. Nazir’s second ball hit Atherton on his thumb, forcing him to retire hurt. Nazir impressed on debut, clean bowling Matthew Maynard and Ronnie Irani.

Saqlain Mushtaq struck twice, and Atherton had to emerge at 178 for 5. His 30 was the second-highest for England. Waqar Younis also provided crucial breakthroughs, and claimed Alan Mullally off the last ball of the innings. England were bowled out for 246, with Knight (125 not out) becoming the third cricketer to carry his bat through a completed ODI innings. He had scored 113 the previous day.

Saeed Anwar (61) and Shahid Anwar (37), probably the closest to a homophonic opening pair in the history of international cricket, added 93 for the opening stand. Ijaz Ahmed, having scored 48 and 79 in the first two matches, added 59.

Pakistan seemed to be cruising at 177 for 2 when Robert Croft removed Aamer Sohail. Five runs later Kabir hit Adam Hollioake to Irani. In a quick burst, Hollioake also took out Asif Mujtaba and Wasim, while Darren Gough came back to dismiss Ijaz.

Pakistan were 219 for 7, but Rashid Latif and Saqlain ran frantically. They added a quick 21 before Saqlain became Hollioake’s fourth victim. However, Waqar hung around, and Latif saw Pakistan through with 2 balls to spare.

Graveney’s grave error

As far as adjudicating Man of the Match awards goes, Tom Graveney did not have a particularly illustrious career. When West Indies had beaten Pakistan in the league match of World Cup 1975, Deryck Murray was the obvious winner. Unfortunately, Graveney had decided to give in to the temptations of alcohol and left midway, naming Sarfraz Nawaz Man of the Match. The decision was not upturned.

This time Graveney could not find anyone suitable enough. Five Pakistan batsmen had scored between 29 and 61. Wasim had taken three wickets, while Waqar, Saqlain, and Nazir had two apiece. England had their candidates, too, what with Knight’s epic and Hollioake’s 4 for 45. Surprisingly, nobody excelled with both bat and ball.

Graveney decided to give it to the entire Pakistan team. A casual look will not reveal anything wrong with the decision, for 9 out of 11 men contributed to the victory. A tenth, Mujtaba, scored 2 and conceded 23 from 5 overs, but Kabir was undoubtedly the worst.

Kabir’s only consolation came in the fact that he had caught Graham Lloyd (David’s son) off Saqlain. He did not bowl. He scored a two-ball duck. To top it all, he was a Man of the Match recipient.

Has there been a candidate less worthy of the honour?

What followed?

– It remained Shahid Anwar’s only international match, though Nazir had a decent tenure, playing 15 Tests and 19 ODIs.

– Kabir played two more ODIs, registering two more ducks. His ODI career read three ducks from five balls. He never bowled, and never caught anyone barring Lloyd.

Brief scores:

England 246 in 50 overs (Nick Knight 125*; Wasim Akram 3 for 45) lost to Pakistan 247 for 8 in 49.4 overs (Saeed Anwar 61, Ijaz Ahmed 59; Adam Hollioake 4 for 45) by 2 wickets with 2 balls to spare.

Man of the Match: Entire Pakistan side.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)