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Breaking one record after another

Yasir Shah seems unstoppable as he goes about demolishing the best of the world’s batting line-ups

Breaking one record after another

After losing the first Test by just four runs, Pakistan bounced back strongly and won the second Test against New Zealand by an innings last week. This was Pakistan’s first-ever innings victory in the UAE and also their first innings win in nearly seven years. The previous instance was against Bangladesh in December 2011.

The last time New Zealand were beaten by an innings by Pakistan was in 2002 in Lahore when former captain and now chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq scored a triple hundred.

New Zealand were bowled out for 90 in the first innings of Dubai Test. This was the lowest by any team against Pakistan in the last five years.

Leggie Yasir Shah was the hero of the match with figure of 14-184. It was the second-best by a Pakistani. He is behind Imran Khan’s 14-116 against Sri Lanka in Lahore in 1982. Yasir’s haul is also the best in the UAE. He surpassed Rangana Herath’s 11-136 against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi last year.

Yasir’s figures are the best by any bowler against New Zealand in a Test. He bettered Courtney Walsh’s 13-55 in Wellington in 1995.

Only two leg-spinners, Narendra Hirwani (16-136) against West Indies in 1988 and Anil Kumble (16-136) against Pakistan in 1999, have given better performances than Yasir.

Yasir’s first innings figures of 8-41 are the third best innings performance from Pakistan in Test matches. The top two are Abdul Qadir’s 9-56 against England in 1987 and Sarfraz Nawaz’s 9-86 against Australia in 1979.

On the third day of Dubai Test, he became the first Pakistani to take 10 wickets in a day. He went past Abdul Qadir and Intikhab Alam, who took nine wickets against England in Lahore in 1987 and against New Zealand in Dunedin in 1973, respectively.

In July last year after the match-winning performance against England at Lord’s where Yasir took 10-141 to give Pakistan a 75-run victory, Yasir jumped to the first position in the ICC Test bowlers’ ranking. But he fell to the 19th position becaue of fitness issues earlier this year.

But his historical spell in the Dubai Test helped him get back in the top ten.

Shane Warne was the last wrist spinner to surge to the number-one position, in December 2005.

In September 2014, Pakistan’s ace off-spinner Saeed Ajmal was suspended from bowling after his action was deemed to be illegal. Finding out a replacement for Saeed seemed an uphill task. But Yasir has done even better than Saeed.

Yasir, 32, made his Test debut against Australia in Dubai in 2014. He didn’t just grab the opportunity, but made everyone forget they were supposed to miss Ajmal, spinning his way to 12 wickets in his debut series at an average of just over 17, as Pakistan whitewashed Australia 2-0. Since then he has become a permanent member of Pakistan’s Test squad.

“Shane Warne was my idol. I started bowling leg-breaks after watching him bowl,” Yasir said in an interview. “My brother sent me a video of Warne from London. I used to watch it every day and tried to copy his action.”

Yasir acknowledges the help provided by Mushtaq  Ahmed, who played 52 Tests and 144 ODIs for the country. “He worked on my action and I can say he’s the reason why I am so successful,” he said after the match against England in 2016.

In 32 Tests, Yasir has 195 wickets, averaging 28.23. He has taken five wickets in an innings 16 times and 10 wickets three times.

If the Pakistani sensation takes five more wickets before his 36th Test, he will break Australia’s Clarrie Grimmett’s record for being the fastest to 200 wickets in Tests. The leg-spinner achieved the feat in 1936.

There is a high chance that Yasir will complete 200 Test wickets in the third Test against Kiwis starting from tomorrow. He is already the fastest Pakistani bowler to reach 50 and 100 Test wickets as he did it in his 9th and 17th Tests, respectively.

Yasir dedicated his performance to his deceased mother who passed away some time back. “I am missing my mother. When I used to go for a match, I would call my mother. I always asked her to pray for me to get five wickets. She would ask me ‘Why five; why not 10?’” says Yasir.  “Her words kept coming to my mind when I took those 10 wickets in a day.”

Khurram Mahmood

Sports Khurram Mahmood

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