Pakistan begin a three-Test series in South Africa on Boxing Day, with the first Test slated to be played at SuperSport Park in Centurion. Pakistan’s batsmen have more often than not found the going tough on South African soil, and it is expected to be the same this time as well, what with the Proteas’ pace attack being one of the best in the world.
So far, there have been six centuries by Pakistani batsmen on South African soil, from a total of 12 matches, of which Pakistan have won only two. As we look forward to the series, let us revisit the instances when a Pakistani batsman achieved the feat of reaching three figures in a Test in the rainbow nation.
Azhar Mahmood (136), Johannesburg, 1997-98
All-rounder Azhar Mahmood announced himself with 128* and 50* on debut, against South Africa at Rawalpindi in October 1997. He continued his liking for South African bowling in the away series four months later, rescuing Pakistan from a wobbly position in the first Test at the Wanderers. After allowing South Africa to go from 166/8 to 364, Pakistan fell to 112/5, at which point Mahmood came in to bat.
Mahmood revived the innings through a sixth-wicket stand of 107 with Moin Khan (46), and went on to add more valuable runs with the tail before being the last man out at 329 at the end of third day. His final score was a career-best 136 that consumed 215 balls and a little over five hours, and featured 16 fours and two sixes. Rain on the fourth and fifth days meant that the match petered out to a draw.
Azhar Mahmood (132) and Saeed Anwar (118), Durban, 1997-98
Mahmood struck another hundred in the second Test at Kingsmead, and this time his innings was more special, as it contributed to Pakistan’s first Test win in South Africa. Once again, he came in at number seven with Pakistan in a tight spot – the departure of opener Saeed Anwar (43) had left them at 89/5. As Mahmood was settling, wickets continued to fall, and at 153/8, he was in danger of being stranded.
However, Mahmood found a willing ally in paceman Shoaib Akhtar, who helped him raise 80 for the ninth wicket. Akhtar hung in, scoring only six, while Mahmood went on the attack, hitting 24 fours en route to a delightful 132 from just 163 balls. As was the case in Johannesburg, he was last out, after having stayed at the crease for 198 minutes, and almost single-handedly propelled the Pakistani total to 259.
Akhtar (5/43) then helped Pakistan take a vital lead of 28, after which Anwar and Aamer Sohail added 101 for the opening wicket. Anwar put on a further 58 for the second wicket, but from a commanding 159/1, the innings imploded to 226 all out. Anwar was sixth out at 203 for a stylish 118, inclusive of 18 fours. Set 255 for victory, South Africa were dismissed for 225, thanks to leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed (6/78).
Younis Khan hits one during his 111 at Cape Town in 2012-13. He put on 219 for the fifth wicket with Asad Shafiq, who also scored 111 (source – Shaun Roy / Getty Images)
Taufeeq Umar (135), Cape Town, 2002-03
Pakistan were under the pump from the word go in this second Test, as South Africa racked up an imposing 620/7. In reply, Pakistan moved to 208/2, only to collapse and fold for 252. The silver lining was opener Taufeeq Umar, who struck a gutsy 135 in 254 balls, with 20 fours and a six. He top-scored in the second dig too, with 67, but could not prevent Pakistan’s huge defeat by an innings and 142 runs.
Younis Khan (111) and Asad Shafiq (111), Cape Town, 2012-13
Pakistan were shot out for just 49 in the first innings of the first Test at Johannesburg on the way to a 211-run defeat, and a repeat looked likely when they slipped to 33/4 on the first morning at Newlands. Asad Shafiq joined the seasoned Younis Khan at this stage, and together they blunted a bowling attack comprising of the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander for the next 71 overs.
Shafiq and Younis shared in a record stand of 219 for the fifth wicket – Pakistan’s best for any wicket against South Africa – before the former perished for 111 from 226 balls, with seven fours and three sixes. Shafiq too finished with 111, scored off 230 balls and containing 14 fours and a six. These efforts took Pakistan to 338, but were in vain, as South Africa successfully chased down 182 to win by four wickets.