Sarfraz Nawaz - Master of reverse swing
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

A brief survey of the career of the mercurial fast-medium bowler Sarfraz Nawaz could do worse than concentrate on his performances on Pakistan's tour of Australia in 1978/79.

he circumstances under which the tour was conducted were not without controversy. This was the heyday of World Series Cricket and most ofAustralia's leading players had signed for Kerry Packer and hence were banned from Test cricket. Pakistan's Packer players, however, were allowed by their home board, after initially being banned, to resume their official Test careers. Asif Iqbal made some very ill-judged comments before the series started about the Australians being a bunch of schoolboys. Imran Khan said that the series was played in as ugly atmosphere as he ever experienced. Both teams had been busy. Australia's inexperienced side had had a harrowing time of it in a six-Test Ashes series, losing 5-1. Pakistan had beaten India in Pakistan - this hugely anticipated series had been the catalyst for the return of their Packer players - and New Zealand away. Sarfraz headed the bowling averages against India with 17 wickets in the three Tests, at an average of 25. He was a major force in Pakistan's two victories at Lahore and Karachi. At Lahore, there was more grass on the pitch than usual and some help for the seamers. Mushtaq Mohammad won the toss and put India in. Sarfraz came on first change, after Saleem Altaf had dismissed Sunil Gavaskar, and took 4 for 46. India struggled to 199.They were always on the back foot after that and Pakistan won by 8 wickets. At Karachi, a pitch of varying pace and bounce produced a game with many notable features. Pakistan's margin of victory was the same; they reached their target of 164 in 100 minutes with 7 balls to spare. Gavaskar scored twin hundreds for India, while for Pakistan it was again magnificent pace bowling from Imran and Sarfraz that made the difference. Sarfraz took 9 wickets for 159 runs off 55.2 overs in the match. In New Zealand he saved his best for the final drawnTest at Auckland, where he took 3 for 56 and 4 for 61.

The first game in the short two-Test series in Australia was played at Melbourne, unusually late, in March. Graham Yallop won the toss and put Pakistan in. An aggressive opening spell from Rodney Hogg had the visitors in trouble early on and they were always struggling; Sarfraz, often a useful performer with the bat, top-scoredwith 35 out of 196. Australia fared even worse against Imran (4 for 26) and Sarfraz, totalling 168 (debutant Day Whatmore 43). Pakistan declared their second innings at 353 for 9. By the close of the fourth day, Australia were 117 for 2 with Andrew Hilditch and Whatmore both out to Sarfraz. Australia needed 265 to win on the final day.



Yallop was out early but Allan Border and Kim Hughes combined for the biggest partnership of the match, putting on 177 for the fourth wicket. The twenty-three year-old Border made what would later come to be seen as a typically dogged six-and-a-quarter-hour century, his first in Tests. The new ball had been taken shortly before tea but Pakistan appeared to be handicapped by Imran suffering from the after-effects of food poisoning. The fourth-wicket pair took the score to 305: 77 needed for victory. Then Sarfraz, cutting his run-up by half and holding the seam upright, struck, bowling Border with a beauty that cut sharply back.

What followed was scarcely believable. Australia were all out for 310.

Sarfraz took all the remaining wickets - 7 including Border's - at a personal cost of 1 run in 33 balls. His final figures, 9 for 86 in 35 eight-ball overs, were then the best by a visiting bowler in Australia; indeed they were at the time the best figures ever achieved by a pace bowler in Test cricket.

Hughes was caught at mid off trying to revive the run-getting;Yallop had been run out: everyone else was either bowled, leg before or caught behind. Mushtaq Mohammad described Pakistan's 77-run victory as a miracle.

To say that this was typical of 'Saf' would be misleading because it would suggest that he was mean and calculating. Which he was not. Well, not often; usually he was charming and companionable. But he was a bit unpredictable, not to say contrary: a controversialist. In the middle of the 1977/78 series against England he simply vanished, flying to England in a fit of pique about terms and conditions. Peter Roebuck put it well: deadly serious but incredibly funny. And he was always well aware of his 'rights': hence the appeal. Brodribb conceded that Hilditch was silly to pick the ball up; there are, after all, eleven fielders who can do that.

At the time of Pakistan's next big series - in India in 1979/80 - Sarfraz was not even in the touring party. Dicky Rutnagur put his omission down to a 'clash of personalities'. Imran was more explicit. He said that the new captain, Asif Iqbal, did not want Sarfraz in the side because he could not handle him. When Imran became captain, he sometimes had to fight to get Sarfraz into the team, as in the series against India in 1982/83 when Imran took 40 wickets. Sarfraz rendered splendid support, taking 19 wickets including 11 in the innings victory at Hyderabad but Imran had had to appeal to the president of the cricket board to get him into the side. Imran was not around to get Sarfraz into the squad for the tour of India in 1983/84 and he dully missedit. Later he was recalled during the tour of Australia that season and bowled splendidly in the Third Test at Adelaide, prompting thoughts of a Pakistan victory. Even in his bowling he could be quite mad, loving to bowl bouncers at fellow fast bowlers mild-mannered men like, JeffThomson. Riled by Tony Greig at The Oval in 1974, he bowled a beamer at him.

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Sarfraz and Imran were a very considerable pair, both immensely hard-working although Irnran was naturally fitter.

Sarfraz was Robert Mitchum to Imran's Cary Grant, bulkier, moodier more threatening in some ways. Sarfraz was older and took Imran under his wing in the early days, teaching him Punjabi, a necessary language in the Pakistan team. In Imran's first great Test performance, at Sydney in 1976/77, when Pakistan gained their first victory in Australia, Sarfraz took three important wickets in each innings.They combined formidably in the Caribbean a few months later in a fascinating series won 2-1 by the home side. Sarfraz's swing bowling, in support of Mushtaq's leg-spin, helped Pakistan to victory in the Fourth Test at Port-of-Spain. The best game of the series was the fascinating draw in the First Test at Bridgetown. lmran has written of how he and Sarfraz had the West Indies in trouble in the first innings and in particular how they swung the old ball. Mushtaq wanted to take the new ball, Sarfraz urged lmran to dissuade - he knew Mushtaq would listen to Imran, not him - but even Imrancould not change the captain's mind.The new ball was taken and the West Indies recovered.
Sarfraz was anmong the earliest exponents of reverse swing and he was never shy of explaining how he helped to teach lnmran the proper way to shine a cricket ball.

In the mid 1970s, the county were as strong as they have ever been.Their greatest strength was the variety of their bowling - Sarftaz and Bob Cottam, the left-armer John Dye and two genuinely exotic spinners, Bishan Bedi and Mushtaq. In 1975, Sarfraz took 101 first-class wickets at 20.30. Peter Lee of Lancashire was the only other bowler to take a hundred wickets. The following year, although his figures did not look as good, he was more influential. He took 82 wickets at 22.76 - being the fifth-highest wicket taker in the country - and was a genuine match-winner. Northants came second in the Championship and won the Gillette Cup, their first honour. He also scored over 600 championship runs. In 1977, he was fourth in the national averages with 73 wickets at 17.06. He headed the county's bowling averages again in 1979 and in 1980 he was a leading figure in the county's triumph in the Benson & Hedges Cup, taking three for 22 in the quarter-final against Nottinghamshire, 5 for 21 in the semi-final against Middlesex and 3 for 23 in the final against Essex, which Northants won by 6 runs.

Sarfraz finished with over 500 wickets for the county. He took 1,005 wickets in all. As suggested above, he was a more than useful batsman too. His forceful 53 at Headingley in 1974 in difficult conditions was the second highest score of an intriguing draw. He took 7 wickets as well. He made invaluable runs -29 and 51 - in both innings of Mushtaq's victory at Port-of-Spain in 1976/77. In his fifty-fifth and final Test, at his home ground of Lahore, against England in 1983/84, he went in at number ten in the first innings and scored 90, putting on 161 for the ninth wicket with Zaheer Abbas and becoming the third Pakistani, after Imran and Intikhab Alam, to achieve the Test match double of a thousand runs and a hundred wickets. In that last series, at the age of thirty-five, he bowled 150 overs in the three Tests.

Sarftaz has rarely been out of the news for long since giving up playing cricket.

He had a spell in politics and for a while was a special adviser on sport to the Pakistani government. It seems almost like Tony Blair making Wayne Rooney a special adviser on football: don't laugh - it could still happen. He was always a stirrer. As England began preparations for what was always going to be a difficult tour of Pakistan in 1987/88, he put a little fuel on the fire by suggesting that the English umpires Dickie Bird and David Shepherd - sainted figures both - had been a little less than even-handed in their handling of the World Cup semi-final between Australia and Pakistan. Sarfraz's first explanation for Pakistan's defeat was that they had thrown the match, but he changed his mind about this after the captain,Javed Miandad, sued for defamation.

Even his relations with Imran became difficult. Ivo Tennant, in his biography of Imran, said that he and Sarfraz were no longer speaking to one another. That was 1994.Then the match-fixing scandal broke in 1995, however, they began exchanging pleasantries. It emerged that Imran had been involved in the decision to sack manager Intikhab Alain and the captain Saleem Malik after the crisis-ridden tour of southern Africa. Sarfraz - ever the nioderator    alleged that liiiraii should he stoned    to death as a cheat and an adulterer. Jinran responded, alleging that Sarfraz was an inveterate gambler who, when in England, could always be found in Ladbrokes. All good clean fun. On one point, though, the two appeared to be in agreement. There was only one punishment appropriate for someone found guilty of match-fixing: the death penalty.

Full name Sarfraz Nawaz Malik

Born December 1, 1948, Lahore, Punjab

Current age 65 years 222 days

Major teams Pakistan, Lahore, Northamptonshire, Pakistan Railways, Punjab, Punjab University, United Bank Limited

Batting style Right-hand bat

Bowling style Right-arm fast-medium


Batting and fielding averages

Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 6s Ct St
Tests 55 72 13 1045 90 17.71     0 4 1 26 0
ODIs 45 31 8 221 34* 9.60 345 64.05 0 0   8 0
First-class 299 367 72 5709 90 19.35     0 17   163 0
List A 228 161 49 1721 92 15.36     0 3   43 0
Bowling averages

Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
Tests 55 95 13951 5798 177 9/86 11/125 32.75 2.49 78.8 14 4 1
ODIs 45 45 2412 1463 63 4/27 4/27 23.22 3.63 38.2 4 0 0
First-class 299   55692 24750 1005 9/86   24.62 2.66 55.4   46 4
List A 228   11537 6662 319 5/15 5/15 20.88 3.46 36.1 9 3 0


By Bill Ricquier from "The Pakistani Masters"

Source: WikiPedia