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2022 in Review

Wisden’s men’s Test Innings of the Year, No.3: Abdullah Shafique’s 160* | 2022 in Review

Abdullah Shafique celebrates after scoring a century during the fourth day of the first cricket Test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Galle International Cricket Stadium in Galle on July 19, 2022.
Abhishek Mukherjee by Abhishek Mukherjee
@ovshake42 5 minute read

Third place in Wisden’s men’s Test innings of the year countdown, part of the 2022 in Review series, is Abdullah Shafique’s unbeaten 160 against Sri Lanka at Galle. Abhishek Mukherjee lauds a record-breaking marathon in a successful chase.

READ: Wisden’s men’s Test Innings of the Year, No.5

Abdullah Shafique 160*

Sri Lanka v Pakistan
Galle International Stadium
July 19, 20

Nazar Mohammad scored Pakistan’s first Test hundred. Mudassar Nazar made the slowest Test hundred in history. They are the only father-son pair to have carried their bats in a Test innings. Hanif Mohammad played the longest ever Test innings. Majid Khan scored a hundred in the first session of a Test match. Mohsin Khan scored a hundred out of 135-1, still the lowest total to include a century. Kiran Baluch’s 242 is the highest score in women’s Test cricket.


For a country renowned for its inexhaustible supply chain of fast bowlers, Pakistani openers have a curious domination over batting records. At Galle, Shafique lived up to the reputation of his predecessors by batting for 524 minutes – the longest by anyone irrespective of batting position in a successful chase.

He also faced 408 balls in that innings, and fell short only of Herbert Sutcliffe’s world record of 462 balls on this ‘where known’ all-time list. And he could not surpass Sutcliffe only because the Laws of Cricket barred him from batting on after his side won.

What makes it ridiculous is the fact that Shafique’s marathon was not entirely unexpected. Before Galle, he had batted in the fourth innings three times – for 188, 465, and 135 minutes. At the time of writing – he is only eight Test matches old now – he has been at the crease for 1,522 minutes in the fourth innings: that number amounts to more than four days of Test cricket, 47 percent of his Test career, and over three hours per outing.

Nothing about any of this makes sense, for the fourth innings is supposed to be where a batter is supposed to last the least, particularly in a subcontinent-only career.

But if some numbers worked for Shafique, there was enough stacked up against him as well. Before this Test match, the fourth-innings batting average in Galle stood at 22.94, not only the lowest among all venues with 30 innings but the only one below 26.

No touring team had chased more than 164 in Galle and won either. As for Pakistan, only once had they chased a bigger total to win anywhere in the world.

Muttiah Muralitharan and Rangana Herath were no longer around, but they still boasted of off-spinners Ramesh Mendis and Maheesh Theekshana, and left-arm spinner Prabath Jayasuriya. The names inspired not awe but intrigue, particularly after they had spun Sri Lanka to an innings win against Australia under a fortnight ago.

With 12 wickets, debutant Jayasuriya had been the chief destroyer on that occasion. Theekshana, another debutant, and Mendis had shared six more. In the first innings against Pakistan, Jayasuriya had taken five and his fellow spinners two apiece. Sri Lanka, in the backdrop of a revolution beyond the cricket greens, were spinning themselves to another win.

Babar Azam’s 119 – the only score in excess of 19 – somehow kept Pakistan in the hunt, but the Sri Lankans piled on the runs in the second innings, leaving Pakistan to chase 344.

Then they opened with Kasun Rajitha, the lone seamer, and Jayasuriya. Rajitha was taken off after he bowled five overs. He would bowl only four more in that 127.2-over innings. It was that kind of attack on that kind of surface.

Imam-ul-Haq and Shafique defended and waited, and found the gap on the rare occasions the spinners bowled anything loose. They added 87, but Azhar Ali went on 104, and Sri Lanka were back in it.

Three innings, 17 wickets – Test cricket must have felt easy to Jayasuriya. It took him an unexpected 17.1 overs now, but he finally tasted blood. Babar then took him on with four, six, four, but Jayasuriya quickly found his length back, and runs dried up. After scoring at three an over for the first 42 overs, Pakistan managed only two an over for the next 17.

Yet, bit by bit the target came down, and the wickets did not. A minor diversion happened when Shafique lofted Jayasuriya over his head into the stands, but normalcy resumed immediately thereafter. Shafique returned to his usual strategy of standing deep inside the crease, stepping forward only when anything was overpitched.

On 99, he survived a scare, when Theekshana bowled one that turned away and beat the bat. Unperturbed, he flicked the next ball to reach his second Test hundred. The celebrations done, he returned to the switch between dead-batting and picking up singles.

Babar thrust his pad forward to Jayasuriya’s ball outside leg-stump and was bowled, but Mohammad Rizwan stayed put. Pakistan, 222-3 by stumps, needed 120 the next morning.

Jayasuriya found his rhythm immediately, sneaking one between Rizwan’s bat and pad without luck, then hitting Shafique on the leg – but reviewing unsuccessfully.

By now the Galle pitch was living up to its fifth-day reputation. While not unplayable, it was loyal to the home spinners in offering turn and bounce. Shafique had a momentary brain fade when he played a ball to Dhananjaya de Silva at first slip and set off – only for de Silva to miss the stumps.

As clouds got darker and rain loomed large, Jayasuriya took out Rizwan. Shafique survived a chance – difficult, but still a chance – when de Silva, the fourth spinner of the attack, dropped him off his own bowling. By the time Jayasuriya got Salman Agha – his 21st wicket in his fourth Test innings – in the last over before lunch, the target had come down to 44.

Babar now promoted Hasan Ali, a logical move (his Twenty20 strike rate is in excess of 150) that did not work when de Silva snared him for five. Mohammad Nawaz walked out. Yasir Shah, padded up, offered little hope despite a Test hundred on Australian soil. Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah, even less so.

The target came down to 19, but suddenly there was a realistic threat of rain. Shafique top-edged a slog-sweep off de Silva, but Rajitha dropped a simple chance. It finally rained eight runs later, but it did not last long enough for Sri Lanka to save the Test match.

The winning hit was a cover-drive for four, fittingly, by Shafique off Jayasuriya. It was his second boundary he hit in the final 68 overs of the Test match.

Pakistan’s immovable object did not dominate the Sri Lankan spinners: he outlasted them.

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