Hanif Mohammad, the original ‘Little Master’ is arguably one of the most famous cricketers of Pakistan. He is one of the reasons behind the popularity of cricket in the nation.
It was a glorious 499 on a winter morning in 1959 when Hanif Mohammad rewrote the history of cricket and crossed Don Bradman.
It was a first-class match of Quaid-eAzam Trophy between Bahawalpur and Karachi. Batting first, Bahawalpur were dismissed for 185 in their first innings. Karachi Parsi Institute Ground had a matting wicket in those days that was favorable for the seamers. Ikram Elahi and Mahmood Hussain made the most of the opportunity and took four and three wickets respectively. Bahawalpur were bowled out just before the tea on day one.
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Bahawalpur had a decent attack, led by Mohammad Ramzan but Karachi had a better line up with several star players with nine internationals. It was evident that the formidable side would aim for a huge total. What followed was a showcase of pure determination and class.
Hanif and Alimuddin ended the day at 59 without loss. The second day it was all about Hanif. He stood still, kept on playing his own game with utmost calm while batters at other end kept going in regular intervals after providing him decent supports. After Alimuddin departed on 68, Hanif and Waqar Hasan added 172 runs. Then Hanif was joined by his elder brother and they put up 103 for the third wicket.
By the end of the second day, Hanif was nearing a triple hundred and was reminded by his brother about Don Bradman’s first class record which was 452. He laughed it off but his brother and mother insisted to push for it. Hanif once revealed how Wazir ensured an olive oil massage for him that night so that he got a proper rest to go for the record the next day.
Concentration was never a problem for Hanif Mohammed. It came naturally to him and it was paid off well. Next day Mathias reached his own hundred and it was 602 for Karachi when the duo separated. Hanif was joined by another brother Mushtaq Mohammed. The siblings added another 39 and with the next batsman Mohammed Munaf, Hanif added 60 more. Bradman’s record 452 was broken with a smooth on-drive for four. But Hanif was determined to raise the bar after crossing his own individual highest of 228 and Bradman’s 452.
The end was abrupt and unfortunate. Hanif couldn’t reach 500, thanks to a scoreboard error. Two balls were still left on the third day and Hanif was on 498 but the manually operated scoreboard showed 496. Hanif played the next ball out to the point and went for a second. He failed to reach the crease on time and was run out. Initially, it seemed that he missed 500 by three runs but actually he missed it just by one run. He recalled about the incident once,
“They had been a little slow and hadn’t updated my score when I looked initially! I would never have pushed so hard if I knew I was on 498 and not 496.”
Karachi put a mammoth 772 and eventually won the match by an innings and 479 runs.
Hanif Mohammed was irritated. But messages from all over the world including one from the great Don of cricket himself made him feel better. His record remained intact until 1994 when Brian Lara scored 501 not out for Warwickshire.