Charting Pakistan's rise to the top of the world

23 August 2016

Pakistan's now famous post-match celebration at Lord's // Getty

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A match-by-match look back from Australia's trip to the UAE onwards, as well as the highest run-scorers and wicket-takers

For the first time since the ICC rankings were introduced, Pakistan are top of the Test Championship tree.

We look back at their journey to number one, winding the clock back two years to the time they last met Australia, who they will face again this summer in a massive three-Test series from December 15.

At that time, the Pakistanis were ranked sixth in the ICC Test Championship, with Australia second.

Quick single: Pakistan's joy at No.1 ranking

While Pakistan have had five particularly meaningful contributors with the bat throughout their recent period of success, it's little coincidence that their rise to No.1 under Misbah-ul-Haq has coincided with the debut and ongoing success of leg-spinner Yasir Shah.

Yasir, who bewitched the Aussies in 2014 and has done likewise against whoever he'd faced since, has taken more than twice as many wickets as the next most successful Pakistani since his debut.

Here we chart the rise of Misbah's men.

Pakistan Tests since October 2014

Matches: 17

Won: 10

Drew: 3

Lost: 4

The key contributors  

Leading run scorers

Younis Khan: 1,846 runs at 65.92 in 17 matches. 8x100s, 2x50s. HS: 218

Azhar Ali: 1,417 runs at 54.50 in 15 matches. 5x100s, 5x50s. HS: 226

Misbah-ul-Haq: 1,349 runs at 51.88 in 17 matches. 5x100s, 9x50s. HS: 114

Asad Shafiq: 1,323 runs at 52.92 in 17 matches. 5x100s, 5x50s. HS: 137

Mohammad Hafeez: 1,278 at 53.25 in 14 matches. 4x100s, 3x50s. HS: 224

Sarfraz Ahmed: 1,001 runs at 52.68 in 17 matches. 2x100s, 3x50s. HS: 112

Leading wicket takers

Yasir Shah: 95 wickets at 27.48 in 16 matches. 6x5WI, 1x10WM. BBI: 7-76. BBM: 10-141

Zulfiqar Babar: 45 wickets at 38.13 in 11 matches. 2x5WI. BBI: 5-75. BBM: 8-233

Rahat Ali: 32 wickets at 35.37 in 11 matches. BBI: 4-22. BBM: 6-70

Wahab Riaz: 30 wickets at 36.16 in 10 matches. BBI: 4-66. BBM: 5-120

Match History (from October 2014)

October 2014: Pakistan v Australia, Dubai

Result: Pakistan won by 221 runs

Sarfraz brings up his century

How it played out: First-innings hundreds to Younis Khan and 'keeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed helped Pakistan to 454, and despite a David Warner ton, the hosts' big lead was built upon second time around, thanks to another century from Younis and one from Ahmed Shehzad. Chasing 438 to win, Pakistan's spin twins – debutant Yasir Shah and veteran Zulfiqar Babar – claimed four wickets apiece to skittle Michael Clarke's men for 216.

October 2014: Pakistan v Australia, Abu Dhabi

Result: Pakistan won by 356 runs

Australia were soundly beaten in the first Test but worse was to come in Abu Dhabi. Younis (213) made it three tons in as many innings, and Azhar Ali and captain Misbah-ul-Haq also piled on hundreds, as Pakistan tallied 570. Australia responded meekly with 261, Azhar got another century, before Misbah hit what was then the equal quickest hundred ever, from 56 balls. Zulfiqar took five as the Aussies were bundled out for 246 to surrender the series.

Misbah scores equal-fastest ton ever

November 2014: Pakistan v New Zealand, Abu Dhabi

Result: Pakistan won by 248 runs

How it played out: A month later and Pakistan’s appetite for runs was still insatiable. Centuries to Shehzad, Younis and Misbah, along with scores of 96 and 87 from Mohammed Hafeez and Azhar, respectively, lifted the hosts to 3-566 declared. The Blackcaps crumbled to be all out for 262 in reply, but Misbah opted to bat again. Hafeez reached triple figures the second time around before the bowlers shared the wickets to dismiss New Zealand for 231 and deliver an emphatic victory.

November 2014: Pakistan v New Zealand, Dubai

Result: Match drawn

How it played out: Runs continued to flow on a flat pitch in Dubai. Zulfiqar claimed 4-137 in New Zealand’s first innings of 403. Pakistan responded with 393 through Sarfraz Ahmed’s 112. Yasir poached 5-79 and Zulfiqar another four victims to set up a run chase of 261 on the final day. But three wickets in five overs reduced Pakistan to 4-75 and ended their pursuit of victory. 

November 2014: Pakistan v New Zealand, Sharjah

Result: New Zealand won by an innings and 80 runs

Misbah leads his team past their Phillip Hughes tribute // Getty
Misbah leads his team past their Phillip Hughes tribute // Getty

How it played out: New Zealand levelled the series in Sharjah in an emotional Test following the tragic passing of Phillip Hughes. Day two of the match was abandoned as the players grieved, with both sides joining in the worldwide tribute by ‘putting out their bats’ before play resumed. Hafeez fell three short of his maiden double-century as Pakistan tallied 351, halted by Mark Craig’s 7-94. In reply, the Blackcaps thrashed a dispirited Pakistan bowling unit to all parts as Brendon McCullum posted 202 and Kane Williamson 192 in the total of 690. A fighting 137 from Asad Shafiq couldn’t prevent Trent Boult and Craig running through the Pakistan lineup to seal an eerie and disconsolate win.

April 2015: Bangladesh v Pakistan, Khulna

Result: Match drawn

How it played out: Hafeez didn’t let another opportunity to score a double-ton pass him by when he scored 224 in the first Test against Bangladesh. Three other batsmen – Azhar, Shafiq and Sarfraz – fell in the 80s as the visitors posted 628 and a 298-run first-innings lead. A colossal opening stand of 312 by Tamim Iqbal (206) and Imrul Kayes (150) wiped the deficit en route to 6-555 and a first-up stalemate.

May 2015: Bangladesh v Pakistan, Dhaka

Result: Pakistan won by 328 runs

How it played out: For the third straight innings a top-order batsman passed 200, this time Azhar with 226. The right-hander was complemented by Younis’s 148 and Shafiq’s 109 as Pakistan notched 8-557 declared. Wahab and Yasir shared six wickets evenly to bundle Bangladesh out for 203 inside 50 overs. The tourists added a rapid 195 in their second dig to set the hosts 550 to win which, thanks to 4-73 from Yasir, they got nowhere near.

Azhar Ali celebrates his double century // Getty
Azhar Ali celebrates his double century // Getty

June 2015: Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Galle

Result: Pakistan won by 10 wickets

How it played out: The spin trio of Zulfiqar, Yair and Hafeez claimed seven wickets to limit Sri Lanka to an even 300 in the opening Test in Galle. Batting at No.6 Shafiq made it Test century No.7 with 131 in Pakistan’s total of 417. Yasir then proved why he is one of the premier spin bowlers in the world as tore through Sri Lanka with figures of 7-76 including the big scalp of Kumar Sangakkara for 18. Pakistan were ferocious in their pursuit of 90, reeling in the target inside 12 overs.

June 2015: Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Colombo

Result: Sri Lanka won by seven wickets

How it played out: The form guide was thrown out a week later when Sri Lanka struck back in emphatic style. Tharindu Kaushal and Dhammika Prasad rocked Misbah’s men for 138 and owned a 177-run lead after first innings despite Yasir’s six-wicket haul. Azhar scored 117 in the second innings but his was a lone hand as Pakistan were bowled out for 329. Yasir claimed another two scalps – Sangakkara for a golden globe – before Sri Lanka levelled the series chasing down 153 easily.

July 2015: Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Pallekele

Result: Pakistan won by seven wickets

How it played out: The deciding Test lived up to the hype for the first three and a half days in a see-sawing contest in Kandy. Sri Lanka held a 63-run lead after first innings (Yasir with another bag) before setting Pakistan 377 to win. Anything close to 400 is practically impossible to chase down in Test cricket, and after being reduced to 2-13 in seven overs it appeared as though Pakistan would follow the precedent. Shan Masood and veteran Younis had other ideas, re-writing the history books with a 242-run stand that deflated the home side and setup a remarkable win on the final day.

October 2015: Pakistan v England, Abu Dhabi

Result: Match drawn

How it played out: On a benign pitch made of the stuff of bowlers’ nightmares, the batsmen dominated the opening Test. Shoaib Malik returned to Test cricket after a five-year absence with a sublime 245 in Pakistan’s 523, but his knock was overshadowed by Alastair Cook’s 14-hour 263. It ws left to Malik to dismiss the England captain, but by that stage 190 overs had eclipsed and any hope of a result. That it until Adil Rashid’s 5-64 sparked a collapse and set the visitors just 99 to win. With scoring rates high wickets tumbled and as England drew nearer to their target the light faded and ended the resurrected match in a draw.

October 2015: Pakistan v England, Dubai

Result: Pakistan won by 178 runs

How it played out: Misbah’s 102 was the backbone of Pakistan’s first innings of 378. Wahab and Yasir each collected four scalps as England surrendered a 146-run lead. Younis’s polished 118 helped set Cook’s charges 491 for victory, but under the watchful gaze of King of Spin Shane Warne, Yasir pinched another four scalps and bowled his side to a series advantage.

October 2015: Pakistan v England, Sharjah

Result: Pakistan won by 127 runs

How it played out: Needing a win to square the series, England flew out of the blocks through James Anderson to dismiss Pakistan for 234. The visitors scrounged together a 72-run lead, but it wasn’t enough as Hafeez’s 151 helped Pakistan post 355 and set England 284 to win. Adding to his three wicket in the first innings, Yasir dismissed four more batsmen as nine wickets fell to the spinners in the series-sealing triumph.

July 2016: England v Pakistan, London

Result: Pakistan won by 75 runs

Shah v Warne - who bowled it better?

How it played out: The return of Mohammad Amir to the Home of Cricket was the talking point ahead of this series opener, with no former England players queuing up to slam the Pakistani quick for the spot-fixing crime he committed as an 18-year-old. Amir aside, it was again Yasir who stole the show, the little leg-spinner bewitching the English in his first Test outside Asia after Misbah had set up the match with a fighting hundred that triggered the first of many push-up celebrations. The match was beautifully set up when England were left needing 283 in the final innings, but Yasir was too hot to handle, and the hosts were rolled for 207.

Wahab wows with sizzling reverse-swing spell

July 2016: England v Pakistan, Manchester

Result: England won by 330 runs

How it played out: Star England pair Root (254) and Cook (105) turned the tables dramatically from Lord's, with a first-innings total of 589 putting England in the box seat. Pakistan couldn't find their rhythm with the bat, and were bundled out for 198 in reply. With rain about, there was some consternation regarding Cook's decision not to enforce the follow-on, but it mattered little in the end as Chris Woakes added seven wickets to his 11 from Lord's to continue his impressive form. 

August 2016: England v Pakistan, Birmingham

Result: England won by 141 runs

How it played out: Five wickets from paceman Sohail Khan and 139 to Azhar Ali helped Pakistan to a handy first-inning lead, but England hit back in the second innings with five half-century makers second time around to leave the visitors needing 343 to win. In one of the more forgettable days of their road to number one, their bid to fight out a draw fell apart dramatically on the final day - at one point they lost 4-1 as they were bowled out for 201. 

August 2016: England v Pakistan, London

Result: Pakistan won by 10 wickets

Pakistan level series after Yasir's five

How it played out: Needing a victory to square the series and have a shot at the number one ranking, Misbah's men duly responded. And it was their most dominant batsman, Younis, who led the way, the veteran rediscovering his sublime best with a match-winning 218. Asad Shafiq (109) joined him in making three figures, and Pakistan's first-innings lead of 214 was always going to be a daunting one. The hosts were bowled out for 253 thanks to five wickets to Yasir, leaving Pakistan requiring 40 runs for victory - a figure they achieved without the loss of a wicket. 

Meg Lanning Steve Smith

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