David Leggat: Best in the world coming our way

Mohammad Hafeez of the Pakistan cricket team. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Mohammad Hafeez of the Pakistan cricket team. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Time to doff the cap to Pakistan's cricketers.

Not a common opening line, but one event this week slightly slipped by without appropriate acknowledgement: Pakistan have scaled the summit to be the world's No1 test nation.

And why is this so notable? Simple. Pakistan last played a home test in March 2009, a match cut short when terrorists attacked Sri Lanka's team bus on the way to the ground.

Since then, Pakistan have played 62 tests. They have a de facto home in the United Arab Emirates, but by no stretch could that be called playing at home. They have won 25, lost 24 and drawn 13.

Those 62 tests have been spread around the globe.

They've played in Sri Lanka 11 times, in New Zealand five; in England eight, in Bangladesh four; Zimbabwe, Australia and South Africa three and the West Indies twice.

Add in 21 tests in Dubai (nine), Abu Dhabi (eight) and Sharjah (four) plus two odd, but hugely significant ones against Australia at Lord's and Leeds.

It was in the Lord's test of 2010 that two Pakistani bowlers, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, were caught spot-fixing by bowling no balls. They went to prison. Never before had the spotlight on Pakistan been as harsh.

So how come they have turned things around to this degree? Credit captain Misbah-ul-Haq.

His test career has been in two parts. There were four tests from his debut at Eden Park in 2001 until 2003, then a four-year absence and now he's averaging 48.27 in 65 tests. He has hit 10 centuries, seven in his last 16 tests. His average in his 46 tests as captain is 54.93. Pakistan have won 22 and drawn 11 tests under him. As much as his productivity, his cool-headed leadership of an historically volatile team has been a galvanising force.

He's 42 and yet the man with the joint second fastest test century to his name - 56 balls against Australia in 2014-15 - remains productive and seriously influential. Witness his century at Lord's a few weeks ago, followed by a series of press ups in a nod to the new fitness regime within the squad.

Add in gifted players such as the 38-year-old batting giant Younis Khan, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, spirited wicketkeeper batsman Sarfraz Ahmed, the likes of legspinner Yasir Shah and seamers headed by the rehabilitated Amir, Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali and Sohail Khan and you have the basis of a top-class side.

Pakistan have always had good players. Under Misbah, and without the ability to play at home, getting to top of the world is a remarkable story.

And they're coming our way for two tests in November.

- NZ Herald

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