Pakistan V England – 2000

Games between Pakistan and England in England tend to produce positive results one way or the other, but in Pakistan, quite the opposite is true. England enjoyed a rare victory in the first ever test match between the combatants on Pakistani soil in 1961, but they had thus far never managed a second. In the interim, the two sides had fought out 19 encounters on the sub-continent with the home side victorious on just two occasions – in 1984 (Karachi) and 1987 (Lahore), a fortnight before the infamous ‘Shakoor Rana/Mike Gatting’ row.

Before the 2000 series, both sides had more or less promised that there would be no shenanigans, no skullduggery and so it turned out. The first two games were, frankly, stalemate – with the emphasis on ‘stale’. In neither game did a positive outcome seem anything more than an optimistic pipe-dream. Karachi, though, was another matter – eventually.

In a game which had more twists and turns than the average Agatha Christie novel, two finely-matched sides fought out a captivating and classic encounter with no quarter asked for and none given.

It seemed almost as though the lack of ambition which both sides had displayed in the first two matches of the rubber had infected the crowd. It is estimated that there were less than 500 spectators in the National Stadium when Moin Khan and Nasser Hussain contested the coin toss.

When Pakistan won the toss, they had no hesitation in taking first knock – a decision which would certainly have met with English approval come lunch time. Darren Gough was the first to strike, trapping Saeed Anwar with a ball which ducked in late.

Nasser Hussain pulled off his first masterstroke on the hour, introducing Marcus Trescothick into the attack. Immediately, the Somerset man had Imran Nazir in knots, the only surprise being that it took him ten balls to break through. Then, half an hour before lunch, Andrew Caddick bowled a delivery to Saleem Elahi. It was wide, there for the drive. Alas for Elahi, the resultant inside edge spread the stumps far and wide. Pakistan were tottering on 64-3.
There are two Pakistani batsmen of recent years who are an absolute pleasure to watch when they are on form. One is the mercurial Inzamam-ul-Haq, the other is the elegant Yousuf Youhana. For the remainder of the day, England had plenty of opportunity to study both from close quarters.
The pair were simply brilliant. After the first hour of their partnership, nothing went past the bat. If anything, England persisted with short stuff for a little too long as both Pakistani stars cut and nudged almost everything behind square. By the time Giles and Salisbury were bowling in tandem, they were so well set and giving the England fielders the runaround, scoring all round the wicket. The closest either gave to a chance was a cut by Youhana which Hussain narrowly failed to reach, but England might as well have been trying to catch shadows.

Just under an hour before close of play, Inzamam went to his hundred by way of a perfect cover drive off the bowling of Ian Salisbury. With the new ball taken, the runs continued to flow, and with just nine balls of the scheduled day’s play remaining, Yousuf Youhana too went to three figures in some style, belting a short ball from Caddick past point for another sparkling boundary.

If Day 1 belonged almost entirely to Pakistan, quite the reverse was true on the second. Resuming on 292-3, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana started in much the same vein as they had ended the previous evening. Caddick to Inzamam – FOUR, delightful drive through the covers. Next ball, FOUR through midwicket. The delirious crowd was much larger on Day 2, as if in anticipation of something special.

With the first delivery of the day by Ashley Giles, everything changed. Yousuf Youhana danced down the track and met the ball perfectly. So did Giles – diving, full length, one-handed. A remarkable catch to end a remarkable partnership. The pair had added 259 of the sweetest runs you could ever wish to see, and Pakistan were set fair on 323-4.

Three overs later, Inzamam went tamely, driving White straight to Trescothick at cover. The next two and a half hours witnessed a mixture of brilliant Giles bowling and some questionable shot selection as the innings slid slowly away, finally ending on a disappointing (under the circumstances) 405 all out.

England successfully negotiated six tricky overs before tea, although Trescothick came perilously close to edging deliveries from Waqar Younis in the process. The passive Atherton looked on, unmoved. The Somerset man seemed to be warming to his task after the interval, plundering boundaries in successive overs but, as is often his wont, a tendency to overdo the aggressive shots too early was his undoing. A wide ball from Waqar Younis was blazed high towards point, only for Imran Nazir to take a fabulous one-handed catch.

Nasser Hussain came to the wicket and the captains past and present set about drawing the sting of the Pakistan attack. Waqar to Hussain – inswinger – a huge appeal (catch or leg before, who knows?) answered in the negative. It took Hussain six tense overs to nudge his first single. Gradually, the pair found their feet in the descending gloom and battled it out to 79-1 at the close of play with Atherton looking as solid as ever on 43.

Day 3 was a grind, reminiscent of the first two games in the previous weeks. 89 overs were bowled, and in that time, England notched up a further 198 runs. Atherton and Hussain took their partnership on to 134 before the skipper was picked up by Inzamam off the bowling of Shahid Afridi for 51. Atherton’s contribution for the entire day was a mere 74 more as he crawled to a century in a snail-like 414 minutes. Let’s say it was test cricket for the diehard purist. In the context of the game and the series, it almost looked as though it had killed both off. Almost – but not quite.

Day 4 found Atherton still occupying the crease with Graeme Hick for temporary company, but Waqar removed the Worcestershire enigma with the sixth ball of the day. Waqar was heroic, steaming in for 36 overs in the heat. Saqlain Mushtaq and Danish Kaneria toiled away for almost 100 overs between them as, one by one, the stubborn English were prised away from the crease.

With the tea interval overdue and England still only nine down, Gough finally lobbed a ball from Saqlain tamely to Yousuf Youhana. The marathon had ended with Pakistan shading the first innings by just 17 runs. The game had run half its course, yet three quarters of the allotted time had expired. Surely there was no chance of a result now?
The English choice of attack second time around was to defend, defend, defend. Just two slips to Gough and the new ball. Rising to the challenge, Saeed Anwar first drove then pulled majestic boundaries through the packed outfield. Imran Nazir was watchful, but he too profited from a leg-stump half-volley. He tried to repeat the exercise, only to flick one down the leg side – straight to the waiting gauntlets of Alec Stewart. Three overs later and Saeed Anwar perished too – caught at slip by Thorpe off a Caddick delivery which jumped a little. 26-2 and just 43 ahead – surely not?

Salim Elahi was playing an epic innings which Atherton would have been proud of, but Inzamam-ul-Haq was climbing all over the wayward Caddick, driving and pulling yet without the fluency of earlier. Once more, seam gave way to spin – a token appearance by Salisbury and then the accurate Giles eager, whirling away. Suddenly, the hitherto immaculate Inzy had one of his ‘moments’. A ball from Giles pitched on leg, Inzamam shouldered arms and the ball gripped, turned and hit off stump. The stunned batsman trooped off forlornly, shoulders slumped in disappointment. Three balls later, the light was offered and the batsmen had no hesitation in making their way back to the sanctity of the pavilion with 71 on the board and 3 wickets down.
Day 5 dawned bright and cool, and the few spectators in the ground had little idea of the remarkable drama that was to unfurl during a thoroughly absorbing day.

There was little surprise when Darren Gough bamboozled night-watchman Saqlain Mushtaq with his off-spinner, and with first innings centurion Yousuf Youhana joining Elahi in defensive mode, a drawn series seemed just a handshake away. Shortly before lunch, the first domino in the line was toppled. White cramped Youhana with a bouncer and he could only glove the ball to Stewart, tumbling down the leg side.

Immediately after lunch the sheet-anchor, Elahi, was winkled out by Giles and the remainder just crumbled – almost as though 45 years of repelling all invaders from Fortress Karachi was just too much. Less than an hour it took for the final six wickets to fall as it finally dawned upon England that a unique victory was possible. For the first time – almost in the game – attacking fields were the norm. Pakistan were unable to shake off their defensive mindset – just a few more precious runs and the final chapter could never have been played out, but the runs never came. When Gough trapped Kaneria plumb in front, just 158 runs had been scored in 70 overs.

England, facing a victory target of 176 in 45 overs started watchfully, but the dustbowl was now lacking in any pace whatsoever. Anything short just sat up and asked to be put away, and the Atherton-Trescothick pairing needed no second invitation to oblige. Seam turned to spin after just five overs, and tea was taken with England on 27 without loss, still requiring an unlikely 149 for victory.

What Pakistan required was wickets – and quickly. Saqlain Mushtaq duly obliged, claiming the prized scalp of Atherton, sweeping. Trescothick had just blasted two mighty fours and an enormous six over long on, but Mushy did for him too, also sweeping. Soon, Stewart was safely locked away, this time defeated by a cleverly disguised top-spinner as Saqlain was threatening to turn the game on its head once more.

Graham Thorpe, England’s best player of spin bowling was looking comfortable, but he needed a partner to help carry the fight to the opposition. He found an ally in the shape of the much-maligned Graeme Hick. The pair brought the hundred up in the 27th over, but already the evening murk was beginning to descend, even as the sides went into the last hour.

Nudging ones and the occasional two but with nary a boundary in sight, the pair were making progress, but the umpires were already peering earnestly at their light-meters. Moin Khan started to ring the changes – a fielder here, a bowler there. Then drinks – and all the time, the light was fading. The equation was simple – 40 to win, nine overs left. One by one, the lights of the city came on. An over by Afridi – runs off every ball, and the signal for Waqar to return.

The offer of the light, duly declined, Waqar takes an age with his field setting. When the ball is returned, he drops it, kicks it away and receives an official reprimand. Hick finds the ropes to bring up the 150. Amazingly, the batsmen are having little trouble sighting the ball, but the fielders are struggling. Once more, the light is offered. Just 21 required and six overs still to go when Hick drags a ball on to his stumps. Hussain in, first ball edged, dropped. Even Moin Khan is having trouble spotting the ball.
Conditions, frankly, are farcical. Momentarily, the ball is lost in the outfield. One run becomes two. The National Stadium has six banks of floodlights, but they cannot be switched on. Still 4 overs left, still 15 to win. As the pale sun disappears, it gradually dawns on the Pakistanis that they are finally going to lose in Karachi for the first time. England are happy to stay out until midnight if need be.

Finally, the last rites are administered. Thorpe smashes two boundaries in succession followed by a scampered two and the game is won under the yellow glow of streetlights. History was rewritten in that moment – only no-one was able to see it.

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