Misbah 8/10 – You can only write a song of praise for every test match he has captained in, even when the side has lost he has performed individually as was the case in Guyana. Captained smartly with his decision making and bowling changes on the opening day as the opposition was bowled out for the 5th time on the opening day of the series under his collective and cunning leadership. He looked much more assured and comfortable in his technique and method of countering the SA quicks and Kepler Wessels even went on to say he looked the best of the lot in the dismal 49 all out showing before being the victim of a controversial decision which saw him on his way for the 2nd highest score of the innings and 2nd longest innings. In the 2nd innings, Misbah top scored in the innings and played the longest innings of the test match in minutes with a determined and resistible vigil to take the test into day 4 when a 3 day humiliation was on the cards. It undoubtedly frustrated the hosts and restored much needed pride and confidence in the visitors’ camp with their stable level headed skipper continuing to thrive with responsibility. Misbah scored his 3rd half century this year in just as many first class games and has top scored on 4 occasions already in an innings this year as his persevering and relentless demeanour has consistently shown its effectiveness in negotiating safely, willingly and obdurately in a crisis. As ever, looked in his own bubble and unfazed out in the middle, content on following his firm structure and set of traditional principles, which have worked for him not only on slow and low wickets, however also on wickets with there is movement and bounce as this test match clearly showed. Consistent, reliable, dependable, re-assuring, methodical, structured, extra determined and rising above the rest as ever. His concentration and judgement was unstinting. 15 50+ scores in 30 innings since taking over and now has same the number of 50+ scores as Azhar Ali since November 2010 (when the Misbah era as captain started).
Mohammad Hafeez 6/10 – Mohammad Hafeez took the most number of wickets in the test match from the visiting party. He was introduced into the attack, late on day 1 and picked up 4 wickets, some of them with the new ball which Misbah ul Haq delayed taking. As ever, most of the wickets came against left handers who he is ever so potent against. Hafeez didn’t last long both times with the bat, although got a bit of an unlucky leg side strangle in the second innings. His bowling played a crucial hand in keeping the South Africa first innings total down when they were 4 down for 170 odd at one stage with some of the front line bowlers barely threatening enough. Also, Mr Professor held on to the first catch of the series when Junaid knocked over Alviro. Hafeez claimed a wicket with his first ball of the series. Quite similarly, he also did so against Eng in the UAE when he nipped Cook out on the 3rd ball he sent down.
Nasir Jamshed 6/10 - Did well to survive an over just before the close on day 1 and get off the mark the following day before being trapped in front in the early minutes of day 2 against the ever threatening Dale Steyn. Played aggressively 2nd time around, although he rode his luck along the way. Soft, embarrassing dismissal for him in the 40s when he was starting to develop a promising, hard to dismiss 2nd wicket stand with Azhar Ali as the left right combination worked wonders, just like Azhar and Taufeeq in the recent past. Given that he was on debut, it wasn’t the worst of beginnings for the talented left handed opening batsmen who is trying to adapt to the demands of the longer form which requires more discipline and patience in his game. These are qualities he will need to focus more on. I still expect Taufeeq Umar to be back in the side by the West Indies tour.
Azhar Ali 5/10 – He survived for over 100 deliveries in the test match, gritted it out and showed a reliable defensive game plan. Both times Kallis knocked him over with a combination of planning and execution. It was thoughtful thinking from the champion highly experienced gifted all-rounder who incidentally is one of Azhar’s idols. Ali was committing on the front foot in the first innings and gloved one through as he wasn’t quite able to get the hands down in time whereas in the second innings he was camped on the back-foot anticipating the bouncer that they were testing him out, roughing him up with and which got him in the first innings as he fell to a fuller and straighter delivery. The most impressive part of his application in this test was his leaving and knowing where his off stump was as he judged and left with a degree of assurance. Unforgettably, took a blinder when Misbah ul Haq made an inspirational bowling change as he turned to Younis to get Amla. Ali clung on to a flashy stroke at Gully which was struck like a rocket.
Younis Khan 2/10 - It was tentative poking outside the off stump from the middle order batting stalwart. He also survived a close review in his second innings. Younis now has 2 50+ scores in his last 12 test innings. However, the good old cliché stands, form is temporary, class is permanent.
Asad Shafiq 7/10 – Outstanding pressure catches at deep square leg/deep mid-wicket in both innings to send Kallis on his way, a much prized wicket in any case. Shafiq played an irresponsible waft in the first innings, but perhaps that came as a result of some sustained pressure due to tight bowling with the scoreboard not moving while wickets were constantly falling like a pack of cards. Nevertheless, in the second innings and fourth of the test match, Shafiq continues to show why he is a man for a crisis. He is more than just a complete test match blocker as there is an element of grace and elegance about his strokes once he survives the initial stages. There was the odd rash shot, however by and large he was sound in defence and followed the instructions of the captain as he worked his way to a morale lifting half century. However, he has a tendency of losing his wicket against the new ball early in the morning after surviving to stumps and this is an area where he might want to think more about. He’s a classy, compact and consistently performing player who is just the right kind of number 6 the team could do with.
Safraz 4/10 – Neat and efficient in the keeping department. Safraz now has 4 single digit scores in his test career. There were eyebrows raised regarding his selection ahead of Adnan who has been tidy behind the stumps and improved his contributions in front of them, particularly in the last 2 series against England and Sri Lanka. Adnan and Taufeeq are two men you would have expected to be playing this test match if you turn the clock back to a month ago. Safraz should be given the series and can still take confidence from the 90 odd he made in the 4 day warm up against a board invitational XI
Umar Gul 6/10 – 4 wickets in the game for the fast bowling spearhead. The opening bowler got Smith both times in his 100th test match as captain in his home city by just angling the ball across the leg side dominant Smith. He also intelligently dismissed Kallis by trapping him with the short ball. It was creative piece of thinking on his part. Gul played a lazy shot in the first innings and for a talented, capable and number 8 batsmen with a fair deal of experience he has got to be harder on himself with the bat.
Saeed Ajmal 3/10 – 40 overs+ without taking a wicket for Pakistan’s best player. Ajmal hasn’t bowled much in the longer form of the game over the last 6 months and it showed in his lacks of wickets. Ajmal averages 40 without Rehman’s inclusion and there is little doubt that he is a much better and much threatening option when Rehman is plugging away and holding up an end as this allows him to attack and experiment more in shorter bursts and also pushes him to strive that extra mile and even takes some pressure away from him knowing the responsibilities in the spinning department don’t solely rely on him. Although Ajmal is a superior bowler on paper, the difference between him and Rehman in the longer form of the game is not much as what might be initially perceived. Ajmal was more or less playing a holding role, however if they needed someone to do that Rehman was a better option. Generally, Ajmal’s impact and effectiveness is maximised with Rehman also sharing the spinning duties as a front line option. At the beginning of Misbah’s tenure, Rehman was preferred as the front line spinner, not all that long ago. Two of the best players in the side, along with Younis need to lift their game.
Rahat Ali 1/10 – Aamir Sohail rated him highly and generally is accurate in his assessment. Rahat was thrown into the deep end, just days after arriving in the country and failed to make any noticeable impression. Perhaps he is the 41st 1 test wonder to come out of the country. It was well mentioned on commentary from Pommie that you can’t select someone based on first class record just for the sake of it and need to look at what they will bring to the team that will help the cause and be different.
Average = 4