Pakistan v England 2012 January 19, 2012

Saeed Ajmal lifts Pakistani hearts

Never in the field of cricket conflict have so many enjoyed a match played before so few. Pakistan's thumping victory in Dubai was accompanied by shrill cries of glory that echoed around a near-empty stadium

Never in the field of cricket conflict have so many enjoyed a match played before so few. Pakistan's thumping victory in Dubai was accompanied by shrill cries of glory that echoed around a near-empty stadium, but it was also greeted with a torrent of exultant tweets and status updates that rang out around the world.

This was the examination of Pakistan's progress that was anxiously awaited, a bout with the world's No.1 Test team, a tussle that might expose the illusion of Pakistan's cricketing resurrection. Instead, Misbah-ul-Haq's team moved their supporters a few steps closer to heavenly rapture.

England were disappointing, a batting performance unworthy of their status. But Pakistan have also made Sri Lanka look miserable here, and perhaps there is more substance to this revival than could have been hoped for? With Saeed Ajmal in such mesmeric form and Misbah's leadership more impresive by the day, Pakistan are capable of turning their Middle East abode into as much of a fortress as Karachi once was. On this evidence, Pakistan can be a power again in Test cricket and the world game will be better for it.

Ajmal was the master of mind games and ball control, unafraid to toss the ball up, confident in his variations. England played to Misbah's masterplan - he prefers to bowl first in such conditions - and Ajmal's wrists and fingers worked their magic. His elbows, meanwhile, extracted some unfair disgruntlement from an English commentator or two, despite the ICC declaring his doosra a legal delivery. A verdict on the legality of long sleeves is eagerly awaited.

To his credit, Matt Prior made no fuss about Ajmal's bowling action, after hitting England's best score, exposing the miserable effort of his colleagues. England's batsmen were collectively poor, a sharp contrast to Pakistan's excellent team bowling effort, Umar Gul and Abdur Rehman playing crucial supporting roles on the final day.

Where England were unreliable, Pakistan batted with solidity. They lacked a big innings that would have made England's task even tougher but it was a team batting display enriched by Adnan Akmal's pluckiness in the lower order. Pakistan's batsmen have replaced extravagence and brittleness with grit and consistency, and it is a formula that has allowed their match-winning bowlers to attack and Misbah to rule with an effortless and incisive calm.

England are far from done in this series, as their second-day bowling underlined. But the first match after that shameful day at Lord's in 2010 was always going to carry a thrilling significance for players and spectators of both teams, Pakistan's in particular. Team Misbah's stylish victory has restated that precious ability of sport to cleanse sins and lift hearts. For its manner and its poignancy, Pakistan's ten-wicket triumph will rank among the greatest in its gripping cricket history.

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

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