The morning of Day 4 of the Lord’s test was an exciting one for the players but a nervous one for the fans. Players saw the possibility of victory at Lord’s, but fans were predicting a collapse.
The start of the day was not great for Pakistan. They lost their last two wickets early, and Alastair Cook started the chase off with a boundary off the very first ball. Was it a sign of things to come? Not yet, as Rahat Ali dismissed Cook in his second over. Hurdle one was crossed – getting Cook out. As James Vince and Gary Ballance stood firm for the 4th wicket, the thought of failure again entered the mind of the Pakistani supporter. But the captain remained calm and confident. He continued with Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah. His trust paid dividends as Vince edged a ball to second slip. Ballance and Jonny Bairstow started to rebuild the innings. Would Pakistan crumble now? That didn’t happen either, as Ballance was bowled by Yasir Shah, which was soon followed by a rash shot by Moeen Ali. Pakistan could see the end of the tunnel, but their path was still blocked by Bairstow and Chris Woakes. The match was delicately poised. The uncertainty returned, but Misbah remained calm.
He waited for either batsman to make an error and continued with the leggie. The resistance lasted 31 overs. The error came in the 32nd over of the partnership, and so did the sigh of relief, followed by the jubilation of Bairstow’s wicket. Mohammad Amir, fittingly cleaned up the tail and victory graced Pakistan at Lord’s after 20 years. The whole team celebrated by doing push-ups right in front of the Lord’s Pavilion. While Younis Khan led the drill for a happy group of players, Misbah remained at the back, with a smile of a relieved man. Pakistan did not do what they were known for – implode. Credit goes to Misbah-ul-Haq.
From terror attacks to spot-fixing, Pakistan cricket has endured a lot in the last decade. Misbah has provided a ray of hope and guided the nation’s cricket to redemption. The ray of hope has not just been for the fans but for the players as well. His decision to stick with Mohammad Amir is also a brave stance. Allowing Amir to return shows he believes in the youngster, something that the 24 year-old needed, on his first return to England since ‘he crossed the line’ as a 19 year-old.
Misbah and MS Dhoni experienced pivotal moments in their career together, in the 2007 T20 World Cup. While Dhoni went on to become a superstar, Misbah had to wait a lot longer for his glory moments. Lord’s is his latest. While one has a flamboyant batting style, the other has a much more subdued method. But Misbah can bring madness to his method too, as he did during his incredible knock to equal Sir Viv Richards’ record of scoring the fastest Test match century. It is when we talk about their captaincy that we see a similarity between the two. Both of them stay unflustered irrespective of the situation of the game – Dhoni does it behind the grill and Misbah does it at mid-on. While Dhoni has retired from test cricket, Misbah’s legacy still has some pages left to fill.
The England series is the start of a huge away season for Pakistan- a proper away season out of their adopted home, UAE. After England and Ireland, Misbah’s side go to New Zealand for two tests and then cross the Tasman Sea to play Australia in three more. A daunting task lies ahead for Misbah, but you would still bet on the fact that he will still have the calm smile.
From the mistimed lap sweep over fine leg to lose the T20 World Cup final, to the perfectly executed push-ups at Lord’s, Misbah’s journey so far has been a memorable one, for himself and his fans back home and around the world, hence backing up the popular saying, ‘Better late than never’.
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