Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay – Zaheer Abbas' 240 against England at The Oval enthrals spectators
August 23, 1974 - Revisiting Zaheer Abbas' classic knock of 240 on his 2nd test tour of England which brought him the moniker of Asian Bradman.
For all its elegance, Zaheer Abbas' high back-lift also brought a risk of him failing in conditions where the ball jagged around. This is why critics were circumspect when a bespectacled Abbas toured England for his second-ever and first test match on the English soil in 1971.
In his first test, off just the 3rd ball, Allan Ward struck Aftab Gul on the head, who had to retire to get the wound stitched. Abbas, walking out in what would have been a formidable situation for most batsmen, saw it as an opportunity.
That day, the crowd at Edgbaston witnessed a pure masterclass of batting, be it the drive or the punch, all strokes had a certain panache to them. Abbas walked off the park unbeaten on 159 at the end of day 1 and there was hardly any doubt that the batsman would go on to become a great.
When he reached 261, Abbas became the first batsman to complete 1,000 runs in that English season. Between 1973 and 1982, he would go on to score at least 1,000 runs every season.
The batsman was finally dismissed for 274 which remains his career-best performance. The Pakistan batting great had to wait for more than three years to bring up his next test century despite doing a great job for Gloucestershire in the county circuit.
In the third test on the Pakistan tour of England in 1974, Abbas took guard after the dismissal of Sadiq Mohammad off Bob Willis. Abbas remained at the crease for as many as 410 balls, striking 22 eye-catching boundaries. He batted at a good (considering the era) strike rate of 58.54.
Having walked out to the crease at 66/1, by the time Abbas was finally bowled by Derek Underwood on 240, Pakistan had already reached the 550-run mark. Taking their time, as was common practice in those days, Pakistan finally declared on 600/7 late on day 2.
With the first two matches of the three-match series having already been drawn, the third one was also headed in a similar direction. Dennis Amiss scored 183 for England while Keith Fletcher compiled 122 to allow Pakistan a lead of only 55 in the first innings.
With Pakistan 94/4 at the end of the fifth day, the match ended in a draw to mark an end to the three-match series, with the scoreline showing not a pretty 0-0.
Abbas finished the series as the highest run-scorer with 324 runs from 6 innings at 54. This was the second of his four test double centuries.
In Zed, the book on Zaheer’s life, David Foot compares Abbas with Wally Hammond, another cricketing great. “As a psychological study (Zaheer is) complex in the same way that Wally Hammond was. Both saved their eloquence for the crease; both were withdrawn and defensive. Both engendered enormous respect and both opted for a privacy that did not come easily in a cricket dressing room. There, I would suggest, the comparison ends. Hammond could be surly and cruelly dismissive. Zed’s personality is altogether sweeter.”
Abbas finished his career with 5,062 runs from 124 test innings at an average of 44.84 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest Pakistan batsmen to have ever taken the field.
Abbas' only regret from his test career remains that if only there were more frequent matches played in his time, he says casually, 10,000-20,000 test runs would not have been a big deal.
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