He was playing the all-important fourth innings of the match. His wicket was crucial as he was the opener of Pakistani team. After scoring a duck in first innings, a sensible knock was expected from him. There was only one fielder on Fine Leg and still he chose to hit in that area and got himself out on another decisive moment. He stared down the fine leg as if it was the first time he has ever seen this position. This is Muhammad Hafeez for you; the most consistent player playing in Pakistan’s Test side.
5th day of Birmingham Test was a perfect day to play cricket. Sun was out and pitch was looking pretty flat as bowlers were getting very less swing and spin earlier in the day. Everything was going in Pakistan’s favour. England was frustrated, Anderson was landing on wrong side of the pitch, Finn was wicket-less and Moeen Ali was not bowling up to the level. In short, Pakistan got under England’s skin.
There was Sami Aslam, who was serving water to Pakistani players on the field two weeks ago, playing the game like he was a senior member of the team. Then there was Azhar Ali, who had a rough series earlier but came back into form. After scoring 139 runs in the first innings, he was looking even more confident.
After Sami and Azhar, two of the Pakistan’s all-time great Test players were still to come. After the veteran duo, there was Asad Shafiq (who has better technique than entire Pakistani team) and Sarfaraz Ahmed (an energetic wicket-keeper batsman). If we think more negatively, Pakistani tail-enders were also good at batting.
England wanted to win the game and all they needed was nine more Hafeez-like wickets. Pakistan was very careful; they knew that this was their chance to become the world no 1.
After having so much advantage, what went wrong for Pakistan?
After lunch on Day-5, something had changed. It seems England came with a plan. They wanted to Hafeez-ed the entire Pakistani team and they did it with a plan – but what plan? The plan was to put the pressure on Pakistani team. Plus, ball started to reverse as well.
Azhar was the first man that England targeted. They put some pressure on Azhar and he started to feel it. First he left the ball that was playable, England moaned and he felt even more pressure. Now edges were coming from his bat; he was not able to play even Moeen Ali deliveries with confidence. That’s what England wanted. On a flighted delivery bowled by Ali, Azhar Hafeez-ed himself and lost his vital wicket.
Next man was Younis. He was concerned with his batting form. He was struggling with his shots and England took advantage of this. He was the third Hafeez to go.
There was Misbah-ul Haq. Misbah usually stands firm in such situations. He fights and doesn’t lose his wicket cheaply. But that was clearly not his day. Finn got him.
After Misbah, Pakistan’s epic proportion collapsed. They lost 4 wickets for just one run.
Asad Shafiq is having a bad time at the 22-yards. He is a formidable player in Tests but couldn’t perform on that day. Sarfaraz Ahmed, who showed some potential in the first innings, failed to chase the ball and gave the ball straight into Root’s hands.
But there was Sami Aslam, who showed some resistance in the game. It was difficult to take the wicket of 20-year-old. An exceptional delivery was needed to remove this boy from 22-yards and Finn produced that delivery. Not all the batsmen played Hafeez shots but they got out like Hafeez because they got out at the time when the team needed them badly (just like Hafeez).
These men, the Hafeez clique, were watching their tail-enders batting better than them and handling pressure brilliantly. It was the moment of embarrassment for all the them. They saw 35 balls from Rahat Ali and 35 runs from Sohail Khan. At the end, Sohail Khan also Hafeez-ed himself against Moeen Ali.
Pakistan has one more Test to play. They must come back and draw the series to stay in the top-3.