At the end of day five Hanif said his eyes were bloodshot from the glare off the shiny pitch yet the match had still not been saved. Kardar’s message was: ‘If you can play until tea-time we will be safe.’ Hanif batted beyond teatime, and reached 337, which was then the second highest Test score after Len Hutton’s 364, but is still – to this day – the longest at 970 minutes. Hanif survived for the almost inconceivable amount of 300 overs. The match was saved, and Pakistan’s reputation.
Soon afterwards Hanif scored 499. He told me that story too, but it was in a domestic game, for Karachi against Bahawalpur, in the semi-final of Pakistan’s first-class competition. Not the intensity of a Test, but it was still quite a landmark to beat: Don Bradman’s world record against Queensland of 452 not out.
After Bahalwalpur had been dismissed first time, Hanif ended day two on 255. His elder brother Wazir (who also batted for Pakistan) told him to get a good night’s sleep – the key to Hanif’s concentration – and to aim for the record. He passed it, and kept going, until the last over of day three arrived, and he had scored 496. So off the last two balls from a medium-pacer he needed four runs, or so he thought, and therefore tried for a second run when deep extra-cover misfielded, only to be run out by four feet.
But then the scoreboard operators put up 499. They had been rather busy and missed two runs.. Hanif had actually reached 498 with two balls to go. He need not have gone for any run off that second last ball, but could have waited until the last. He admitted he was very annoyed. Even so, it was 36 years before Brian Lara hit the first 500.
Hanif stroked the ball, with a light bat, but he could be unorthodox as well as infinitely patient. He might have been the first to play the reverse-sweep: he was certainly the first to do so in a Test match, at Lord’s in 1967. His younger brother Mushtaq popularised it further until the shot has been common.
Pakistan has produced some great and glorious cricketers since Hanif Mohammad, but he paved the way as the Little Master.