The reaction of most batsmen to reaching a Test Match century is usually quite predictable.
A handshake with their batting partner, a raising of the bat to acknowledge the applause of the crowd and his teammates. When Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq reached his tenth Test hundred, and his first at Lord’s, in 2016, his response was quite unique. After steering a single down to third man to reach his landmark, Misbah gave a quick wave of the bat, then removed his helmet and gloves and offered a smart salute to his team on the Pavilion balcony (and the Pakistan flag flying above it) before dropping to the floor and performing ten press-ups.
There was nothing spontaneous about this unusual performance. Misbah had taken over as Pakistan’s captain just under six years earlier and his tenure had been a tremendous success. Despite the continued disadvantage of not playing Test cricket at home due to security concerns, Pakistan’s win rate had doubled under Misbah and they would end the summer of 2016 as the number one ranked team in the world for the first time. But one lingering complaint was the team’s fitness. Misbah sought to address this by taking his players to a camp in Abbottabad where they enjoyed fitness training under the supervision of army instructors. Both the salute and the press-ups (one for each of his Test hundreds) were a tribute to the help of those instructors. They also proved that after 154 balls and two hours and 42 minutes at the crease, this particular 42 year-old had plenty more to give.
Misbah’s innings of 114 saw Pakistan to a total of 339. A brilliant display of leg-spin bowling from Yasir Shah then took the visitors to a 75-run victory. When Mohammad Amir bowled Jake Ball to complete the win, the whole Pakistan team dropped to the floor to repeat their captain’s performance.