Fazal Mahmood

Cricketer described as 'Pakistan's Bedser'

For the first 20 years of Pakistan's existence, the cricketer Fazal Mahmood strode centre-stage for the young nation to all the acclamation of a Mogul emperor. He was explained to other cricket nations as "Pakistan's Alec Bedser", but even the lion of Surrey hardly carried as much of his country's hopes and expectations. For most of his career, Mahmood lived up to them.

Fazal Mahmood, cricketer and policeman: born Lahore, India 18 February 1927; married (one son, two daughters); died Lahore, Pakistan 30 May 2005.

For the first 20 years of Pakistan's existence, the cricketer Fazal Mahmood strode centre-stage for the young nation to all the acclamation of a Mogul emperor. He was explained to other cricket nations as "Pakistan's Alec Bedser", but even the lion of Surrey hardly carried as much of his country's hopes and expectations. For most of his career, Mahmood lived up to them.

Although a more wiry figure than Bedser, like him Mahmood bowled right-armed, fast-medium. He, too, was a master of nagging length, an accurate line and carried a full armoury, including leg-cutters and break-backs. Bowling on matting, he was devastating - "unplayable" according to one visiting Englishman - and he had the intelligence and diligence to adapt to whatever natural surfaces were set before him around the world.

Mahmood also had that other prime virtue in a Test bowler, a patient cheerfulness in adversity. As a lower-order batsman, he would be a dangerous hitter against all but the best bowlers.

He attended Islama College, Lahore, and before Partition played for Punjab and Northern India in the Ranji Trophy. Mahmood was expected to tour Australia with India in 1947-48, but stood down as Pakistan emerged as an independent nation. In 1949-50 he led the Pakistan attack against Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and his name first registered with English followers in 1951-52 when, playing against MCC in Karachi, he took six for 40 in 26 overs. Such feats did much to accelerate Pakistan's rise to Test match ranking.

Pakistan made their first official tour of England in 1954, by which time Mahmood's ability was recognised worldwide, and he lived up to that reputation by taking 77 wickets in 16 first-class matches at an average of 17.53. After the last Test at the Oval, Fazal Mahmood was for a few days a household name in Britain for he was chiefly responsible for that famous first victory, taking 12 for 99 in the match. He was to give the visiting Australians a similar thrashing in 1956-57 when his 13-114 in 75 overs helped deliver Pakistan another renowned first win.

Mahmood succeeded to the captaincy in 1958 and led his nation in 10 Test matches until 1961, when age took toll of his stamina and strength. On retirement he continued to serve his people as a senior police officer. He will also be remembered for his strikingly vivid green eyes.

Derek Hodgson



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