On the day of 11th of August 2016, Pakistan lost its most precious gem from the world of cricket. The ‘Little Master’ Hanif Muhammad, the first great Pakistani batsman, who passed away on this date, will always be remembered for his monumental innings, both in terms of the number of runs he scored and the time he spent at the crease.
Born on Dec 21, 1934, in Junagarh, in today’s India, to Ameer Bee, a national badminton champion, and Ismail, a hotelier and accomplished club cricketer, Hanif Muhammad came to Pakistan after partition. He and his three brothers – Sadiq, Mushtaq and Wazir – played cricket for Pakistan, while the fourth brother, Raees, also had a first class cricketing career. His son, Shoaib Muhammad, too, was an international cricketer and he represented Pakistan in 45 tests and 63 ODIs.
Hanif Muhammad played 55 Test matches for Pakistan between 1952 and 1969, averaging a fine 43.98 comprising twelve hundreds. Pakistan was granted Test status after the team rode on Hanif’s invaluable innings of 64 runs at the top-order that helped Pakistan win a four-day first class contest against Marylebone Cricket Club at the Karachi Gymkhana cricket ground.
Since then it was never looking back. The batting genius, for more than three decades, held the record for the highest individual score in first class cricket – 499. While performing this remarkable feat, Hanif surpassed Sir Don Bradman’s previous world best of 452 not out to record the highest individual first-class innings. Interestingly, he was run out attempting a risky second run to reach 500 before the end of the third day’s play. This was an enviable achievement as it stood unsurpassed for 35 years until Brian Lara piled up 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994.
In 1958, Muhammad set his epic record for the longest innings in Test history when he scored 337 in 970 minutes against West Indies in Barbados. He began batting towards the end of the third day of a six-day match with Pakistan in a hopeless position, following on with a first-innings deficit of 473. Playing ball by ball, never contemplating the end, and hardly daring to look at the scoreboard, he displayed an unbelievable level of discipline to bat not only to the end of that tricky evening session but across three more gruelling days in the Caribbean sun before being caught behind the stumps toward the end of day six.
Thanks to Muhammad’s exhausting rearguard action, Pakistan were able to declare at 657 for 8 with just 11 overs remaining, and to engineer a famous draw. His 970-minute-long innings was not only the longest in international cricket; it remains the highest score by any batsman in a Test match outside his own country.