1992 June 16, 2012

Bad blood, balls and botches

What was supposed to be a fence-mending series between England and Pakistan in 1992 proved to be anything but

Purely in terms of money, the 1992 Pakistan tour of England was, at the time, probably the most lucrative staged. Crowds flocked to the five Tests and five ODIs and takings exceeded the Test & County Cricket Board's expectations, even though three of the Tests did not go into a fifth day.

But it also left a bad taste in the mouth that was to linger for years, with England, especially the tabloid press, murmuring all summer about what they claimed was ball-tampering on the part of Pakistan's fast bowlers, while the Pakistanis took out their frustration on the umpires, both on and off the field.

The series, the first since the infamous home-and-away affairs in 1987 that plunged cricket to a nadir with the Shakoor Rana-Mike Gatting affair, was supposed to be a fence-mending affair. The absence of Gatting, serving a ban for leading a rebel side to South Africa in 1989-90, spared some potential embarrassment. But there was still no shortage of those willing to fan the flames, and England's defeat in the World Cup final in March remained an open sore.

From the off, Pakistan believed they were being dealt an unfair hand by the TCCB in regards to the umpiring, and they had a point. A sensible move would have been to use England's most experienced officials, but the board picked eight different umpires for the five Tests. Bizarrely, John Holder, who had stood as a neutral in Pakistan's 1989-90 series against India and was trusted, was not one of them. Dickie Bird and David Shepherd, the big guns, were also barely used. Pakistan had been accused of this in 1987-88 and it was hard not to feel the English board was extracting some revenge. Either that or they were guilty of almost unbelievable naivety.

An odd, unloved and unrepeated format saw the five Tests sandwiched between the second and third ODIs, ensuring interest never really built for the limited-overs games. England won the first two ODIs, the second ending with an almost inevitable squabble between Javed Miandad and Ian Botham, when Miandad claimed Botham had sworn after dismissing him. It set the tone.

The opening Test, at Edgbaston, was a rain-blighted draw, and then Pakistan won a thrilling game at Lord's by two wickets. But under the surface, tempers were simmering. They all boiled over of the fourth evening of the third Test at Old Trafford.

Roy Palmer, in his first Test, had infuriated the Pakistanis after giving Ramiz Raja leg-before following an at best half-hearted appeal. Perhaps his bigger crime was to be the younger brother of Ken Palmer, the man who Pakistan had vehemently taken objection to in 1987.

When Aaqib Javed let fly a bouncer too many at the hapless Devon Malcolm, Palmer stepped in with a warning for intimidatory bowling. As Palmer went to hand Aaqib his sweater, replays showed it got tangled in his belt, but Aaqib reacted with disproportionate anger, which cost him 50% of his match fee. "I shouldn't have said anything," he later admitted, "but as a fast bowler you get worked up over these things."

Malcolm, meanwhile, was unhurt, although his pride was dented when match referee Conrad Hunte referred to him as being "one of the worst No. 11s in Test cricket".

As Pakistan's captain, Miandad might have been expected to step in to calm things down. Instead he inflamed the situation, openly arguing with Palmer. "Had Imran Khan been captain then, the whole situation would probably have been better handled," Aaqib said. Their manager, Intikhab Alam, hardly helped either, telling anyone who would listen that Palmer was "rude and insulting" and complaining the umpires "looked at the ball very frequently" when Pakistan were in the field.

Palmer suffered a torrid time throughout. "We appealed excessively throughout the match and he didn't like it," said Moin Khan. "We weren't happy, as we thought he was giving wrong decisions. Javed at one time threw his bat down in frustration, so things were boiling over."

In the fourth Test, where England levelled the series, Pakistan's suspicions about the umpiring had substance, particularly when Graham Gooch was run out by a yard at a crucial stage in England's first innings. The anger shown in England at the height of the 1987-88 tour was in every bit replicated back in Pakistan.

The crowd, which was predominantly Pakistani, harangued Merv Kitchen, the umpire concerned. "They went wild," recalled Derek Pringle. "They gave Merv a hard time." They also abused John Major, the prime minister, who was watching.

But by this time England had their minds on the way Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram were getting the old ball to reverse swing. They were particularly clinical when it came to blasting out England's tail. Mutterings became louder when Pakistan secured the series with victory at The Oval, Akram taking 6 for 67. Some said it was little more than sour grapes after a lost series.

"We didn't tamper with the ball," Aaqib said. "In any case, everyone reverse swings it now, so is it tampering? No, we just did it better than anyone else." Pringle supported that defence. "I didn't feel cheated. It was a special thing they had at that time."

England clinched the one-day series 3-0 with two to play, at Nottingham, but the lid came off during the fourth ODI at Lord's when Allan Lamb revealed to a tabloid newspaper that the umpires - John Hampshire and Ken Palmer - had changed the ball at lunch during the England innings. "I've blown the whistle on Pakistan's ball-tampering because they've been getting away with murder all summer. No one has been brave or honest enough to finger them until now." He went on to claim he had alerted the officials to alleged tampering.

A clearly blustered MCC secretary John Stephenson said the outcome of a hearing would be released quickly. What actually followed was a series of contradictory statements, described by Colin Bateman in the Daily Express as "either a mammoth cover-up or a mammoth mistake".

"In the darkness," noted Wisden, "further seeds of mistrust and animosity were sown for the future." Five days later - with allegations, counter-claims and threats to sue for libel still coming thick and fast - the ICC ruled the matter closed without either clearing or convicting Pakistan. To this day the ball has never been released for inspection by the authorities.

As Wisden reflected, "what heightened the atmosphere was principally the media coverage, and that of the British tabloids in particular. When Khalid Mahmood, the tourists' courteous but hard-pressed tour manager, said after the series: 'There is no hostility between England and Pakistan, only in the tabloid newspapers', he was close to the heart of the matter. Relations between the two countries have lacked understanding at most levels, but if the media coverage had been more restrained there would not have been the amount of controversy there was."

What happened next?

  • For speaking out and breaking his contract, Lamb was immediately fined an estimated £2000 and suspended for two matches by Northamptonshire; later, at a TCCB disciplinary hearing, he was fined £5000, with costs of £1000, the stiffest penalty of its kind in English cricket to date. This was reduced on appeal, but only to £4000 (half of it suspended for two years) and £500 costs

Is there an incident from the past you would like to know more about? Email us with your comments and suggestions.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Malcolm on June 18, 2012, 15:10 GMT

    The last time Pakistan had a 5 test series in England.

  • Dummy4 on June 18, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    One of my most favourite series, when tours were properly organised. Not like today's rubbish with 2 Test Series, and ODI in clown costumes. Was also the last we saw of the great D.Gower and I.Botham!

  • Sumeet on June 18, 2012, 4:39 GMT

    @cheguramana...India toured England in 1990 and then in 1996...this series was held in 1992. Your facts are incorrect, as is your dig at the Indian team of that era (though i support your optimism)

  • Stephen on June 17, 2012, 14:00 GMT

    Away from the tests, it was a wonderful tour; there were about a dozen county games with the tourists challenged to win something like 10 of them (which they did); providing great entertainment for local supporters. A pity those days are long gone. I also remember them losing to Minor Counties over two days after helping to set up a sporting declaration - again, entertainment uppermost. A great tour by a great side.

  • Javed on June 17, 2012, 12:57 GMT

    Great series! I travelled from Pakistan, stayed back and saw the test at Lords, all 4 days it lasted. Incredible finish.

    One of the reasons why the recent series in 2010 did not explode, though it came close to that at times, is that the British media handled things somewhat better and at least the reputable ones eschewed flagrant sensationalism.

    That is not to condone the hurt and affront suffered by the Pakistani fans by the antics of our favoured" three" and the immature dealings of our then Head of the Cricket Board. Kudos to Andrew Stauss too for leading the way with his tactful handling... a lesser captain would have only inflamed an already volatile situation.

    This is why Misbah should lead until his form as a player lasts and a level headed replacement is available. Temperamental personalities should never be considered as winning is not everything! Even England tried KP but it did not work out and we did Afridi to no good avail.

  • shafeen on June 17, 2012, 12:00 GMT

    Thought the Pakistanis were on the right side of the incident with Umpire Palmer. After the first warning, Malcolm ducked into a back off a lenght ball, and Palmer stepped in again like headmaster. Aquib, who was clearly peeved over the sweater returning incident, reacted angrily - but he was in the right; the ball wasn't a bouncer, it was the batsman's handling of it that made it look dangerous. I remember Javed stepping in too, and he seemed to fairly quietly be pointing out the same thing. Aquib dreaming if he thinks Imran would have handled things more "diplomatically". Imran took no nonsense from foreign umpires - he'd bowled a spate of bouncers himself to Englands tail in '82 in retailiation for Iqbal Qasim being struck.

  • Peter on June 17, 2012, 8:22 GMT

    I am certain Miandad's inclusion as Captain was always going to be the pipe opener. A great bastsman, great entertainer, great personality but really, him leading any team for any goodwill tour had to be have set-up, surely? Widely respected, but diplomatically speaking, should never have been nowhere near any action, LOL.

  • Dan on June 16, 2012, 18:48 GMT

    I remember this series so clearly, a massively talented Pakistan team played some electric cricket and a fairly limited England side sweated blood to stay in touch. The ECB were at their most mulish, Javed did what Javed tended to do with his team following and the tabloids were disgracefully jingoistic, no wonder it sticks in the mind. If one thing stands out for me it was Salim Mailk at Headingley, the pitch was mother's milk for English style seam and with the rest of his side blown away he made two sumptuous unbeaten 80s that even overshadowed a Gooch masterclass.

  • Ramana on June 16, 2012, 18:29 GMT

    This series was a full 2 decades sago, but there are some clear memories there. If I am not mistaken, this was the series in which Waqar Younis really made a splash on the international stage. The 'two Ws', 'hunting in pairs' destroyed England. This series was immediately after the Indian team's tour. The Indian establishment and fans were not too happy abt their own series, because Pakisthan got the best part of the English summer. Neither did the Indian tour get the same support and publicity as the Pakistanis got, from TCCB/ECB. Its probably fair to say that the Pakistani team attracted a lot more spectators, they had better cricketers at the time; the Indian team fared very poorly under Azharuddin's captaincy. Since then, India has become No1 in both Tests and ODIs and managed to lose its Test status very badly. Hopefully, both India and Pakistan will recover their best performance levels and bring the zest back to Test cricket.

  • Dummy4 on June 16, 2012, 18:26 GMT

    Very interesting read, I'd have loved to follow that sereis live, but I was too young at that time :( The reverse swing that Pakistani bowlers mastered and used to their advantage esp. during 90s baffled their opposition, switch hit has the same impact on many bowlers these days, they feel betrayed. In a matter of few years, when batsman around the world would start playing it with authority, no one would even bother to question anything...

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