Few hundreds in the history of Test cricket have been as dominating, authoritative and timely as the 2 hundreds hit by Azhar Mahmood during Pakistan’s tour of South Africa in 1998. His scores of 132 and 136 against the pace of Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusner and Fannie De villiers came at times when Pakistan had already lost more than half their side and were looking down the barrel.
Mahmood, only 22 years old then, entered the series with an already rising reputation as one of the upcoming all-rounders, due to his hundred against South Africa at Rawalpindi on his Test debut, but these two innings, against one of the strongest bowling units at that time, enhanced his status as the potential Garry Sobers for the future.
Throughout both his innings, Azhar played with such freedom, fearlessness and arrogance that the South Africans had no answer to his onslaught. While other Pakistani batsmen were failing to score freely, Azhar looked at ease against the blistering pace and movement of the South African bowling unit.
Azhar Mamood 136 vs South Africa at Johannesburg 1998
These innings, in consecutive matches, marked the beginning of a golden period for Pakistan cricket where Azhar Mahmood and Abdur Razzaq teamed up, as two genuine all-rounders of the highest class, with Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar to take Pakistan’s bowling unit to near immortality.
Azhar Mamood 132 vs South Africa at Durban 1998
Unfortunately, despite such brilliance and promise, Azhar never went on to fulfill his potential as a Test cricketer. In the shorter formats of the game, however, he became an integral part of the Pakistan team and made significant contributions in many of the famous Pakistani victories. These days, he usually lights up arenas with his blistering hitting in the shortest format of the game.