December 11, 2000

Praise heaped on England's 'incredible achievement'

Staff and Agencies

England's victory in Karachi, only their second Test match win in Pakistan since Lahore in 1961, was hailed as an "incredible achievement" by man of the match Michael Atherton.

It was his 16th Test century which brought England back into the match in the first innings. He said: "We weren't in a great position after the first day, but the way we came back and won the game was an incredible achievement.

"It was a pretty good wicket. There was more pace and bounce than those in Faisalabad and Lahore, and that's probably why there was a result in the game."

Victorious captain Nasser Hussain told Sky Sports: "We showed a lot of spirit to come back and win at 6pm on the final day.

"I wouldn't pick any performance. It was just a pleasure to play with the side. You can name so many people, all of whom performed in the whole series. We have stuck together."

England legend Ian Botham picked out Atherton's hundred as the key to England's success. "He was absolutely fantastic," said Botham.

"If it wasn't for his innings England would not have won this game. Without his innings, they could have ended up following on. To be really honest about it, he grafted it out and he wore the Pakistani bowlers down."

Sports Minister Kate Hoey said: "This is a fitting and exciting finale to what has been a very good series for England, and it is a great follow-on to the series win against the West Indies in the summer.

"I offer my warmest congratulations to the entire team but, in particular, to Nasser Hussain for his outstanding leadership. The win seals the tremendous progress made by English cricket in recent years."

Graham Thorpe, the hero as the deepening gloom threatened to thwart England's ambitions, praised the great team spirit which guided the tourists to victory.

Chasing a target of 176 off a minimum of 44 overs, Thorpe hit an unbeaten 64 off 97 balls to help the tourists seal Pakistan's first ever defeat in Karachi with 2.3 overs remaining.

Thorpe said: "We have had great team spirit. We have had to dig deep on many occasions. We have worked so hard throughout this Test series and since we have been in Pakistan."

Thorpe also praised Graeme Hick for his part in a match-winning partnership. "He has had a tough tour and has showed great strength.

"We are going home for Christmas and it is going to be just great."

Thorpe revealed it was all about grinding out a result against a Pakistan side who tried spoiling tactics to rescue a draw.

"They wanted to come off for bad light and we wanted to stay on," said Thorpe. "We did not want to lose this game, we were determined to win.

"Facing Waqar (Younis) is difficult in normal light and it's very difficult facing him when it's pitch black.

"England have won three series on the trot now. To win this series has been a magnificent effort."

Pakistan captain Moin Khan conceded that England deserved their success. "They exploited the conditions better than us and they deserved to win," he said. "We did not bat well and that cost us the match."

Moin also said that England had been the superior side over the three Tests. "We dominated in the second Test. England had the upper hand in the first game and came back in the game here. Overall England played very well in the series."

Mike Gatting, captain of England on the last tour to Pakistan 13 years ago, was sorry to see the hosts trying to slow the game down as darkness descended. He said: "It was a bit sad that Moin felt he should appeal against the light himself. He was slowing it down.

"You can understand them slowing it down, for obvious reasons. But to appeal against the light, I thought, was a bit harsh."

England chairman of selectors David Graveney was full of praise for Hussain, who has struggled with the bat on the tour. He said: "He's done very well and I know he has been batting under extreme pressure when his own form hasn't been as he would have wished.

"Decisions have gone against him and I think he's done a fantastic job of being captain of England and I think everyone was delighted with the way he contributed in that finish."