Coming into the Test series, Mohammad Hafeez had only scored 34 runs in four innings on the tour. He had only bowled in two of those innings after his action had been cleared by the ICC, but had gone wicketless. On the second day in Khulna, however, Hafeez was at the centerstage of a revival not only his own, but of Pakistan.
Hafeez had found drift and good control with his newly-remodelled action to pick up a wicket on the first day. On the second day, however, his dismissal of a fluent Soumya Sarkar triggered a Bangladesh collapse that saw the home side lose their last five wickets for 27 runs to be bowled out 20 minutes into the second session. Hafeez, introduced after 19 overs, induced a false shot in his second, breaking a 62-run partnership between Sarkar and Mushfiqur Rahim that had helped the home side ease past the 300-run mark. The rest succumbed in no time and Bangladesh were stalled to an underwhelming 332.
Hafeez’s other telling contribution, however, was to come later. Making most of the excellent batting conditions, Hafeez led Pakistan’s response with his eighth Test century. He may have had a tough last few months, but Hafeez’s Test form picked up from where he had left it. With his third century in three Tests, he joined an illustrious group – Zaheer Abbas, Mudassar Nazar, Shoaib Mohammad, Mohammad Yousuf (twice) and Younis Khan – of Pakistan batsmen.
Throughout his innings, Hafeez profited off anything bowled short of length. He greeted Mohammad Shahid, the right-arm seamer, to Test cricket with a back-foot punch through cover in the bowler’s first over and picked up boundaries off the spinners in a similar manner. If there was a lesson to be learnt from the initial part of Hafeez’s innings, it was to avoid bowling on his pads.
Bangladesh’s bowlers, however, regularly fed Hafeez with what he wanted. All Hafeez had to do was to sit back in the crease and work it around to the leg side. Nine of Hafeez’s 12 fours were hit in the region between midwicket and backward square leg. His two sixes, both of Shakib, were pulled over midwicket as well. Surprisingly, only towards the end did Bangladesh think of providing cover in the deep.
The other feature of Hafeez’s innings was his rotation of strike. After reaching his fifty with a six, Hafeez only once hit a four before he got into the nineties, and yet maintained a healthy strike rate. However, it took him only two balls to jump from 93 to his century as he whipped consecutive boundaries off Rubel Hossain.
Hafeez’s effortless innings allowed his partners to bat comfortably around him. The new opening pair – Pakistan’s sixth in last six Tests – of Hafeez and 19-year-old Sami Aslam made smooth progress to bring up the half-century of the partnership in the 12th over. Aslam was dismissed soon after for a 36-ball 20, a review urged by Bangladesh showing he had gloved a turning delivery from Taijul Islam to be caught by Mushfiqur down the leg side.
Azhar survived a couple of scares – he was twice dropped by Mushfiqur, the second chance off Shahid injuring the wicketkeeper’s right hand and forcing him to leave the field – and was unbeaten on 65 after a 177-run unbeaten association with Hafeez. By the end of the day, Pakistan were trailing by 105 runs with nine wickets in hand.