England in Pakistan

Don’t tell the Barmy Army, but watching England in Pakistan has not always been a rewarding experience. The painfully slow wickets and both sides’ funereal run-rates have ensured that 17 out of the 21 tests to date have been drawn. With not many of those ever looking like producing a result, this particular series has often been a cure for insomniacs everywhere. After England, led by Ted Dexter, won the first test in Pakistan between the two sides in October 1961, a staggering 11 consecutive games during the 1960’s and 1970’s ended in stalemate. However, things do occasionally get lively. Once in a while, one or other of the sides collapse spectacularly enough to set up a result. And, even more spectacularly, we have sometimes seen some very bad behaviour indeed from both players and umpires. Here are five exceptions to the rule, when fireworks replaced the tedium and you really didn’t want to miss it.

1. March 1984 in Karachi

This was the original “Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll” tour, with Botham, Willis, Lamb et al regularly being accused of everything imaginable. Whilst the players have always denied all charges, surely they had to be on something to play as badly as they did in the first leg of the tour (in New Zealand), and to bat as badly in this, the first test of the second leg. Admittedly there are worse crimes than succumbing to the wonderful leg-spin of Abdul Qadir, whose match figures of 8 for 133 did much to set up the home side’s win. But how on earth did the 35-year-old Sarfraz Nawaz finish with 6 for 69 on what was obviously a spinners’ track?

Despite their worst efforts, England almost won. Unbelievably, Qadir was out-performed by Nick Cook. Even more unbelievably, Pakistan, chasing 65 for victory, collapsed to 40 for 6 and eventually staggered home by three wickets. Cook finished with extraordinary match figures of 11 for 83, featuring his third and fourth five-wicket hauls in his first four tests.

This was Bob Willis’ final test as England’s captain – he returned home injured after it, handing over the reigns to David Gower. It was also Ian Botham’s only test in Pakistan. After flying home for surgery on a knee injury, he decided to announce that Pakistan was a wonderful place to send your mother-in-law. Doubtless Kath’s mum would be rather more welcome than Botham if she did ever decide to visit that particular part of the world.

England 182 & 159
Pakistan 277 & 66 for 7
Pakistan won by 3 wickets

2. March 1984 in Lahore

A draw, but definitely not a bore. Actually it was a minor classic, and Gower’s second match in charge had enough ebbs and flows to satisfy anyone. Batting first, England again subsided to Sarfraz and Qadir for a thoroughly inadequate 241. However, rookie quick Neil Foster’s five wickets helped reduce the hosts to 181 for 8 before Zaheer Abbas and Sarfraz added 160 for the ninth wicket to establish a three-figure lead.

Gower’s majestic 173* took England 242 ahead, with enough time left for a brisk run chase. Openers Mohsin Khan and Shoaib Mohammad promptly added 173 and the hosts looked home and dry. Not a bit of it. Other rookie quick Norman Cowans claimed five wickets in no time at all and Pakistan suddenly found themselves 199 for 6. Cometh the hour, cometh that man Sarfraz Nawaz. Playing his final test, he followed his unlikely 90 in the first innings by seeing off Cowans and the rest of England’s attack to save the game and seal the series win.

England 241 & 344
Pakistan 343 & 217 for 6
Match Drawn

3. November 1987 in Lahore

By now, things had turned nasty. Bad feelings between the sides had been on the increase since the 1982 series in England, when the Pakistanis had felt distinctly hard done by in a narrow 2-1 defeat. Then, their unhappiness about some of the English umpiring had been compounded by what they felt was the hosts’ high-handed attitude towards their complaints. The 1987 series in England, won 1-0 by what was now a very fine Pakistan side, was increasingly bad tempered, and it was unfortunate that the series in Pakistan followed almost immediately afterwards. By now it was obvious that the two sides couldn’t stand each other, but no one could have predicted the degree of unpleasantness that surfaced on what turned out to be England’s most disagreeable tour since Bodyline.

As in 1984, the hosts made sure that the series started in their favour by preparing a helpful track for their star bowler. Sure enough, England had no answer to the genius that was Abdul Qadir, who demolished England’s first innings with astonishing figures of 9 for 56. In reply to England’s paltry 175, Pakistan built a huge lead based on a typically patient 120 from Mudassar Nazar. Second time around, England fared even worse, folding meekly for 130 and losing the game by an innings and plenty.

Fair enough. If you have the best spinner in the world, it makes sense to provide conditions that suit him, so no complaints on that front. England’s grievance was that the main architect of their defeat was not Qadir and his match haul of 13 wickets. Nope. As far as Gatting’s boys were concerned, the crucial contribution came from Shakeel Khan. Estimates as to the number of batsmen sawn off by this umpire vary. Some credit him with even more victims than Qadir: others are more conservative. Whatever the real tally, many judges rate Mr Khan’s performance as one of the worst ever seen in international cricket.

Opinions only differ as to whether this was due to incompetence or something worse. By their second innings, England reckoned they knew a stitch-up when they saw one, and weren’t in the mood to go quietly. After Chris Broad’s innings was ended by yet another debateable bat-pad decision, he decided to stand his ground, refusing point blank to return to the pavilion. Eventually his opening partner Gooch wandered down and persuaded him to go. The rest of the side lingered rather less than the future match referee, and most observers were just happy to get the whole affair over and done with. Surely things could only get better.

England 175 & 130
Pakistan 392
Pakistan won by an innings and 87 runs

4. December 1987 in Faislabad

This was the match that put cricket on front pages all over the world. And for all of the wrong reasons: none of us will forget the images of England’s captain Mike Gatting and umpire Shakoor Rana going nose-to-nose, fingers jabbed and invective spouted in equal measure. And over what? The crucial incident was almost comically insignificant – in the final over of the second day, Rana objected to Gatting moving a fielder without the batsman being aware of the field change, and, from no-where, all Hell broke loose.

Except, of course, it wasn’t from no-where. England – already mightily miffed about Shakeel Khan’s efforts in the previous test – were further inflamed by another series of questionable calls this time around. They were actually in pretty good shape when it all went off. Their total of 292, built, ironically, around a fine hundred from Broad, was not exceptional, but in reply Pakistan were struggling at 106 for 5. In terms of the match situation, the Gatting & Rana fracas was good news for the hosts. After the day’s play, despite the two protagonists offering differing views of events, apparently sort of peace-deal was agreed. Enter Javed Miandad – Pakistani captain in the absence of Imran Khan, and never one to make a molehill out of a mountain.

Allegedly, having heard that the matter had been resolved, Javed marched into Rana’s dressing room and reminded him of his responsibilities. The upshot? No play at all on Day 3, which pretty much ensured safety for the hosts despite facing a sizeable first innings deficit. Eventually, Gatting was persuaded to put some sort of apology in writing, and play resumed on Day 4. Or at least, it would have done if the rains hadn’t intervened. Eventually, Pakistan were dismissed 101 runs short of England’s total and, after a quick bash from the tourists, were set a nominal 239 to win in 40 overs. Having reached 51 for 1 by the start of the final 20, Javed unilaterally called his batsmen back in (in breach of the laws of the game), and that was that.

There were, of course, ramifications. The call for match referees became impossible to ignore, and neutral umpires soon followed. England didn’t tour Pakistan for another 13 years, to the enormous relief of both countries. As for Gatting, he initially survived – in fact each of the England side were awarded a “hardship allowance” of 1000 pounds – and was still in charge of the side when West Indies arrived in England in 1988. He didn’t last long though, sacked after a kiss & tell story appeared in the Sun involving a barmaid in the hotel where the England team stayed during the first test. It seemed an appropriately sordid end to a particularly unpleasant chapter in the history of English cricket.

England 292 & 137 for 6 declared
Pakistan 191 & 51 for 1
Match Drawn

5. December 2000 in Karachi

England’s first tour of Pakistan in 13 years was a throwback to the 1960’s and 70’s. The presence of neutral umpires and match referees meant that a repeat of the Gatting tour was never very likely, but the feeling was that both sets of players were determined to avoid the unpleasantness of 1987 and the 1992 series in England. In fact, most of the play was positively soporific – a reminder of how things used to be before the fireworks of the 1980’s. The first two tests were drawn, and never looked like producing any other result. And the third test looked like going the same way for most of the first four days.

Pakistan had batted first and, largely thanks to hundreds from Inzamam and Youhana, passed 400, which is usually the benchmark for safety. In reply, Atherton’s 125 and some handy wagging from the tail had allowed England to finish only 17 runs in arrears. With only four sessions left to play, that should have been that. English hopes were raised by the quick removal of both openers, but Inzamam, looking massively assured, and Elahi had taken the hosts to 71 for 2 by the penultimate over of the day. Astonishingly, Giles found a way through Inzamam’s defences, and, just maybe, England were in business.

Day 5, as they say, is history. After Youhana and Elahi had almost taken Pakistan to safety, White found the edge of Youhana’s bat, triggering a collapse that saw the last six wickets fall for 30 runs, and England needed 176 to win in 44 overs. Normally, chasing that total against Saqlain and Kaneria on a fifth day wicket would be a nerve wracking affair, but the need for quick runs seemed to remove that pressure altogether. Instead, skittish contributions from Atherton and Trescothick gave England a rapid start before Thorpe and Hick took England to the brink with a crucial 91 run stand. In the event, the fading light posed more of a threat than any of the bowlers.

There was plenty of moaning from Moin about the dangers to his side from trying to field in the dark, but, to his enormous credit, Umpire Bucknor pointed out that the conditions only arose because Moin had cynically slowed down the over rate to nine-an-hour once it became apparent that only one side was going to win the game. The loss of Hick, with 20 runs still needed, brought Hussain to the crease. With his captain clearly unable to pick up the ball, Thorpe upped the pace and saw his side home just before even Bucknor would have to have called an end to proceedings. It was a famous victory – one of England’s finest, and their first in Pakistan since their first test there almost 40 years previously.

Pakistan 405 & 158
England 388 & 176 for 4
England won by 6 wickets

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