|Ground:||Kennington Oval, Kennington|
|Scorecard:||England v Pakistan|
|Event:||Pakistan in British Isles 2006|
DateLine: 19th August 2006
Mohammad Hafeez insisted he'd never doubted he'd return to Pakistan's Test side after marking his comeback match from a three-year exile with 95 in the fourth and final Test against England here at The Oval.
"I was thinking all the time one day I will come back to Test matches. Three years is not an easy time to wait for a comeback but it worked for me."
Hafeez's stand of 177 with Mohammad Yousuf (115 not out) helped Pakistan finish the second day on 336 for three, a lead of 163, in reply to England's meagre first innings 173.
With Hafeez's fellow opener Imran Farhat making 91 it suggested Pakistan might be on the way to solving the first-wicket partnership problems that have plagued them this series.
Already a losing 2-0 down in the series, Pakistan have used four different opening combinations in as many Tests in England in the absence of proven performer Shoaib Malik, out with an elbow injury.
Hafeez, who retired hurt on eight with a leg muscle injury before resuming Friday, had only recently arrived in England.
And his performance was all the more impressive as this was his first Test since September 2003 when he made the last of his three previous appearances, all against Bangladesh, at Multan.
"It was a good knock, especially as I was under pressure because I was coming back to Test cricket after three years. But after this innings I feel much happier and much better," Hafeez told reporters.
Hafeez, who can also bowl off-spin, has played 30 one-day internationals and it looked as if he'd been brought to England primarily for the upcoming five-match limited overs series.
"I was in good nick. I scored 180 against Australia on the A tour and I was thinking I might get a chance to play a Test match and I would like to thank my coach (Bob Woolmer) and captain (Inzamam-ul-Haq) for the trust they've placed in me."
The 25-year-old Hafeez, who previously had two spells playing club cricket in Yorkshire, northern England, said he was now determined to nail down his place at the top of Pakistan's order.
"I will try my level-best to get a place permanently in the side. I know the problem is in the opening area but you need to work hard to get a place at international level.
"It's not insecurity you feel, it's pressure. Whenever you get a chance for your country you have to perform," added Hafeez, who in his second Test scored 102 not out against Bangladesh.
In sight of his second Test century, Hafeez's 177 ball innings with one six and 14 fours, ended when he chipped pace bowler Matthew Hoggard to England captain Andrew Strauss at short mid-wicket.
"To score a century in a comeback game would have been a very happy moment for me. I was lazy with the shot that got me out."
Well though Pakistan batted, there was no disguising a lacklustre display by England's attack. Too many of their bowlers were off-target and four catches, all off Hoggard, have been dropped in the innings so far with Yousuf missed on five and nine.
"It was as bad as it looked," Hoggard admitted. "We were below par bowling, below par fielding and we were below par batting yesterday (Thursday).
Asked to explain a display that saw strike bowler Stephen Harmison well below his best with none for 78 off 15 overs, Hoggard added: "If we knew that we'd be quite rich.
"We weren't complacent. Pakistan are the third best team in the world and we know we have to play well to beat them," Hoggard, England's leading bowler so far this innings with two for 79 from 22 overs, added.
"They might have lifted their game a little bit and we've dropped our game. At this level you cannot afford to be five percent off your mark or you will be found out."
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)