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September 20, 2010

2010: Summer of Pakistan

Cricket survives Butt attack

Kamran Abbasi
Shoaib Akhtar was pacy but erratic in his opening spell, England v Pakistan, 4th ODI, Lord's, September 20, 2010
Shoaib Akhtar in action at Lord's on Monday  © PA Photos
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Lord’s wasn’t full but it was resplendent. A healthy crowd enjoyed a perfect late summer’s evening, by the end of which you might have been excused for forgetting that international cricket was on the brink of calamity. Sensible heads in the ECB ensured that the fourth one-day international between England and Pakistan took place despite a unilateral attack by Pakistan’s bumbling chairman, Mr Ijaz Butt.

Nerves were fraught following a night of anger in the England camp and bewilderment in Pakistan’s. The tension even spilled over into a pre-match clash between Jonathan Trott and Wahab Riaz, and it was still etched on the furrowed brow of Andrew Strauss at the post-match press conference and the perspiring forehead of Pakistan’s coach Waqar Younis.

Waqar, it seems, has become Pakistan’s one-man crisis management team. I’m not sure these delicate media situations come naturally to him but he has done admirably enough in fending off hostile questions, at least attempting to focus on cricket instead of fanning the flames of controversy. He described England as a great venue to tour and relations between the teams as superb. Although the latter statement might have been stretching the bounds of credulity, Waqar has always had affection for cricket in England despite the controversies.

He believes his squad composed of the young and the recalled deserves praise for its spirited performances in the one-day series, especially in light of the storm swirling around them and friendly fire striking amidships.

This series, however, is unlikely to be remembered for its cricket unless in relation to allegations of fixing of some variety. The 22 players made a noble attempt to reconnect supporters with the fascination of a hard-fought contest—and the crowd responded. The surreal mood of the morning was replaced by an uncharacteristic buzz of excitement at Lord's as England chased victory under lights.

For what it’s worth Pakistan have begun to excel again at defending a competitive total. With Shoaib Akhtar leading the line and Umar Gul smashing stumps, the last two internationals have been a throwback to the way Pakistan used to go about their business more than a decade ago. Even Razzaq’s blitzkrieg in the last two overs was an echo of past adventures.

There was also fight here from Shahid Afridi’s boys, a determination to show the world what they can do. How long it lasts is anybody’s guess but Pakistan have the momentum going into the final match of the series. England, meanwhile, were shell shocked, first by Butt’s unbecoming accusations and then by the passion of Pakistan’s fightback.

Yet all the players, English and Pakistani, must take credit for playing out an enthralling contest in probably the most controversial environment in the history of one-day internationals. By the finish there was renewed hope that the spirit of cricket lives on. The fumblings of the ICC and the damage caused by Pakistan’s cricket chairman might yet be contained. Pakistan’s players celebrated victory as if they had won back their souls from the devil.

The evening at Lord’s was a reminder that the fascination of cricket lies in the battle between national heroes and the interplay of that intense contest with the emotions of an enthusiastic crowd. These magic ingredients will live on when the mistakes of the ICC and the stupidity of Mr Butt are consigned to the landfill of history. Match-fixing allegations in their various guises may be harder to shake. After all, they began on English fields in cricket’s earliest days.

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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Dora on (January 26, 2012, 16:13 GMT)

Hey, good to find somonee who agrees with me. GMTA.

Posted by 10%Mate on (October 2, 2010, 5:42 GMT)

Utterly Pathetic contest except few one day"rs. Just could not belive that no one is making any fuss in Pakistan.

How pakistan cricket going to survive in future, while these players are selling the pride of a nation .Now Even God can't rescue this drowning ship....

Posted by 10%Mate on (October 2, 2010, 5:35 GMT)

Utterly Pathetic contest except few one day"rs. Just could not belive that no one is making any fuss in Pakistan.

How pakistan cricket going to survive in future, while these players are selling the pride of a nation .Now Even God can't rescue this drowning ship....

Posted by samir Haji on (September 25, 2010, 17:22 GMT)

England are such big cheaters. Did u see the first ball of bresnan's over in the 5th odi.

Posted by Doug on (September 24, 2010, 10:46 GMT)

I find nothing to joke about in the latest chapter of disgrace Pakistan have brought upon the beautiful game. They need to be banned and banned now before they spread their cancer to other, decent nations.

Posted by Vishwa on (September 24, 2010, 5:28 GMT)

ICC may not ban Pakistan, but, I think, the Big-4 (India, England, Australia and South Africa) should stop playing against Pakistan -- there is absolutely no credibility of matches when you play against Pakistan.

Posted by Dilawar on (September 24, 2010, 4:37 GMT)

why is this so ironic that if Pakistan accuse someone, they (Pak) need to provide evidence but if someone accuse Pakistan, no need to provide evidence of what so ever. I don’t think Butt should apologize. Racism is on its peak in cricket. What I suggest is that South Asian countries should detach themselves from ICC and have one of their own body. You will see how the rest will come down to their knees.

Regards

Posted by Khalid Arif Siddiqui, Jeddah - Saudi Arabia on (September 24, 2010, 0:22 GMT)

Yes indeed Ejaz Butt will leave one day (Although it seems unlikely, he would rather be kicked out) and so would Haroon Logart and yes Cricket will move on. Having said all this I must also mention that one thing will never change and its the typical English behaviour....that will not and never change. A society where they have so much faith in the filthy tabloids will never change, they will remain same. England is one country where we see such yellow (as they say but I call it Black) journalism thrive and flourish. The damning part is that the English people are so hooked at it and even trust papers like News of the World, maybe because they love to live in controversies. Poor Englishmen I really pitty them.

Posted by Shah Ji on (September 23, 2010, 23:23 GMT)

I thought Ijaz Butt is keeping a low profile and doing a wonderful job by making minimum appearance, His statement of "innocent until proven guilty" was wonderful although totaly against his case with Yunis Khan. But suddenly He open his mouth and speak ,and speaks like an Ijaz Butt ... suspected Spot fixing was never so harming ,as much his statement.

Posted by asim on (September 23, 2010, 23:04 GMT)

FOR english MEDIA and ICC ! "we like to play games " PCB should think to play against the english MEDIA , sue them or ask them to give REAL proof!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi

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