They were only four years old [in Test cricket] but they managed what no other cricket playing nation had ever done.  They beat the English in their first test series on their own soil.

Pakistan has witnessed several magical moments in its cricket history (who could forget the unbelievable six by Javed Miandad in Sharjah?), but the Oval test 1954 was where the magic first happened and Fazal Mahmood was the magician who cast a spell so strong that the English couldn’t do anything but fold.

This was to be Fazal Mahmood’s match. His action was not prepossessing, but he was strong, immensely fit, built like the policeman he was and, in many ways, was the ideal fast-medium bowler. His length was consistently accurate, he took punishment well, his stamina and determination were such that he never flagged and, given the opportunity of a breakthrough, he would persist untiringly. His stock in trade, like his pace, was similar to that of Alec Bedser; although originally a wrist spinner, he developed sharp swing, but probably his keenest weapons were his cutters, which, particularly from leg, he bowled outstandingly and, in helpful circumstances, with deadly affect,” wrote John Arlott.

The Original Superstar

‘Superstar’ wasn’t a term yet used for Pakistani cricketers because it was being saved for Fazal Mahmood, the first Pakistani cricket superstar.  He had it all, a great personality – often termed as debonair – with blue eyes, dark wavy hair, a tall, sturdy physique and a sharp wit.  His deadly leg-cutter was enchanting.

To have seen Fazal bowl on a wicket which still shimmered with early morning dew was to see a miracle in the air, six times in about as many minutes. He could make the ball do extremely odd things. Just when you thought you were stepping forward to one that you would play in the middle of your bat, you discovered to your utter surprise that though your left foot was still in the correct forward position, your bat straight and held at the right height above your left toe, your leg stump was lying in the vicinity of third slip. Fazal had struck again. How he did that, remains a mystery and although he explains in an epilogue how to bowl a leg cutter, no one has been able to ‘bend it like Fazal,” wrote Khalid Hasan (a senior Pakistani Journalist and writer).

Fazal Mahmood’s Career at a Glance

BATTING

BOWLING
Career Span:1952-1962Innings Bowled:

53

Matches:

34

Overs:

1639

Innings:

50

Maidens:

563

Not Outs:

6

Runs Conceded:

3434

Runs:

620

Wickets:

139

Highest Score:

60

5 Wicket Innings:

13

Average:

14.09

10 Wicket matches:

4

50s:

1

Average:

24.71

100s:

0

Economy Rate:

2.1

Best bowling in Innings:7  for 42

What Makes Fazal Mahmood Great?

The stats of Fazal’s cricket career are truly impressive but stats alone didn’t make him a legend.  Let’s see what some of the all-time great cricketers have to say about him.

If cricket was played as much in those days as now, Mahmood would have taken a thousand wickets.” (Alec Bedser)

On matting Mahmood was often unplayable; on grass he could be equally devastating. To the casual observer he might have appeared harmless and just another bowler putting his arm over. But what a guile and consummate skill went into every ball.” (Alex Bannister)

Mahmood, it has been eight years since the Oval Test in 1954. I have been thinking about what you did with the ball and I have not yet been able to understand. Would you tell me how you bowled that particular ball which got me out twice in the Oval Test?” (Sir Len Hutton)

(Image courtesy of cricland)