December 13, 2000

Pakistan's abysmal home run continues

Karachi, Dec 12: England's first victory in Pakistan for 39 years in near twilight on Monday extended home side's abysmal track record to a fourth straight series loss.

Nasser Hussain's men, in the process, also tarnished Pakistan's unblemished run to become the first overseas side to win a Test here at the National Stadium. Previously Pakistan had won 17 matches out of 34 played at a venue that had been extremely lucky since 1954-55.

England's only other win in a Test against Pakistan away from home was achieved by Ted Dexter's 1961-62 squad. Overall, it was England's 15th victory over Pakistan in 58 Tests since the two countries first confronted each other in 1954. Pakistan winning nine while a staggering 34 matches failed to provide conclusive results.

England, who last won a Test (and a series) against Pakistan was in 1982, have now won 117 matches away from home out of a tally of 385 (lost 131 and drew 137). On Pakistan soil, both teams have won two Tests each in 21 meetings.

However, in recent years, Pakistan have performed moderately on home soil. Since 1995-96, the home team have won seven Tests out of 26 with nine defeats (see the table) under five different captains.

There have been marked improvement in Pakistan's overseas performance. In the same period, they have emerged winners on 11 occasions and have lost eight out of 27 Tests abroad.

Overall, Pakistan have won 77 out of 273 Tests since 1952-53 and lost 66. On home soil, Pakistan's record is still impressive despite the setbacks in recent times. Monday's six-wicket debacle was only 17th suffered by Pakistan in 125 Tests with 43 victories - the last coming against Sri Lanka at the National Stadium nine months ago.

Pakistan has proved a heaven for many teams in the past five years. Sri Lanka, who started Pakistan's dismal trot in 1995, won two series. New Zealand achieved their first win here in 27 years, Australia won their first rubber in Pakistan in 39 years. That was followed by Zimbabwe's only away triumph, which was good enough to win their first series over Pakistan.

In fact, all the major Test centres, which are in current use, have turned out to be Pakistan's Waterloo. New Zealand won at Lahore in 1996-97, South Africa claimed their first series in Pakistan by virtue of their victory in the Faisalabad Test in 1997-98, Australia celebrated their second series success in Rawalpindi in 1998-99. In the same season, Zimbabwe took advantage of a disarray in Pakistan side to attain their most famous triumph in Peshawar.

England's latest triumph, who also ended Pakistan's run of five series victories over the Englishmen, gave them their third successive series win, following their victories in the English summer against Zimbabwe and the West Indies. If they beat Sri Lanka on the second leg of their South Asia trip after spending the Christmas at home, Hussain's team will equal the victorious run of Mike Brearley's England side between 1978 and 1979 who won four rubbers against Pakistan, New Zealand (both at home), Australia (away) and India (home) in succession.

The outcome of the just-concluded series was quite unexpected if the events on the previous 14 days of the series are anything to go by. On average, 5.21 wickets fell per day at almost 40 runs per scalp.

The opening Test at Lahore produced 958 runs for the loss of 22 wickets in 391.4 overs. The second Test at Faisalabad provided 1052 runs for the loss of 28 wickets in 382.1 overs. The first two Tests, inevitably, were doomed to be drawn because of the shorter daylight. In other words, the scheduled 83 overs per day could not be bowled due to the inferior light conditions apart from two days in the Lahore Test.

As many as 440.2 overs were bowled in the Karachi Test simply because the excellent weather here meant that the mandatory 90 overs per day were possible, although the second and fourth days were curtailed to 83.4 and 81.4 overs respectively. Despite that minor setback, 1127 runs were scored in the final Test for the loss of 34 wickets.

Even then, the average fall of wickets was a pointer towards a third straight draw. But the final day of the series was undoubtedly the most dramatic with 11 wickets tumbling for 263 runs. The next best was the day four of Karachi Test when nine wickets fell, followed by the second day which saw eight wickets crashing.

England, who fielded the same XI in a series for the first time in 15 years, accumulated 1588 runs for the loss of 41 wickets in the series. Pakistan, on the other hand, scored 1549 while losing 43 wickets.

However, England were better on the average, achieving 38.73 to Pakistan's 36.02 per wicket. But Pakistan's overall run-rate (2.71) was slightly superior to England's (2.47) in what was otherwise a unexciting and dreary series from the spectators' point of view.

That is, until the final day...