First Test Match

England v Pakistan


At Leeds, July 25, 26, 27, 29, 30. Drawn. This opening match of the series lacked only a final act to prevent it becoming a memorable drama. Unfortunately no cricket was possible on the fifth day.

As the fourth day ended England needed 44 runs to win with only Fletcher of the specialist batsmen left while Pakistan needed to take four wickets. Both sides went away proclaiming that they would have done it, but it was impossible to know, for in a match in which neither side had managed to reach 300 predictability was the only quality missing.

In England's favour it must be said that batting seemed less hazardous in the last innings of the match, yet at the same time Pakistan could claim to have outplayed their opponents in conditions in which England, with their seam bowling and batting experience, have always been regarded as invincible.

The pitch was light-coloured and friendly looking, yet throughout it played like the greenest of green ones. The movement of the ball was extravagant, so that it was nothing for Arnold, that prince of bowlers when the gods are with him, to beat the bat four times in an over.

The amount of movement varied considerably, so that in the end the consensus of expert opinion seemed to lean towards the theory that it had more to do with the density of the cloud than the texture of the pitch.

At the end of the first day England seemed to be in a position of strength with Pakistan 227 for nine. Only Majid, who in the first half of his innings was beaten more regularly than anybody except Imran, and Zaheer Abbas, who shook the long held English belief that stroke players with high backlifts cannot prosper in this sort of cricket, held them up. Zaheer's back-foot strokes through the covers were the best of the match. Yet what turned out to be the most significant happening of the day came in the last over when Underwood put down a simple catch in the covers.

Next day the last pair, Sarfraz Nawaz and Asif Masood, created a new Pakistan record by taking their partnership to 62, Masood blocking diligently and Sarfraz plunging a long way on to the front foot to make 53 with comparative ease.

Suddenly England had a match on their hands and before the day was out they looked like losing it. They lost their second wicket at 69, their fifth at 100 and their last at 183. That they had a deficit of 102 was because Masood and Sarfraz bowled even better than they had batted. Seldom can two players have so dominated one day's Test cricket in differing roles. In support Imran bowled so well that Pakistan's three seam bowlers were a more destructive trio than England's.

Yet it was Old, Hendrick and Arnold who brought England back into the game for a second time with the help of Greig, who emphasized his skill as a slip fielder by taking six catches and thus equaling a world record. Between them they dismissed Pakistan for 179 -- the third successive innings in which the seam bowlers appeared to possess magical qualities.

This time it was Mushtaq who played and missed continually, yet stayed. It was another aspect of the benefit which overseas players have gained from playing in county cricket that they were now prepared to soldier on in these demoralising circumstances whereas in other times they had been known to retreat in confusion.

With Lloyd and Amiss out for 22 England's hopes had all but disappeared. That they remained in sight at all was the result of some dropped catches and a sudden lessening in the amount of encouragement the bowlers received (significantly, the clouds were lighter and higher on the Monday). At last patience, technique and years of study of this kind of cricket began to come into their own. Encouraging them was the fact that 282 was no mountain of a score to aim at.

After that depressing start they reached 174 before they lost their fourth wicket. The revival was inspired by Edrich, although that may seem a flamboyant way of describing an innings of 70 that lasted nearly five hours. Yet it was his courage, application and certainty of selection -- it failed him in the end when he was caught hooking a long hop -- that made the task seem possible. In similar vein Fletcher played well and then Sarfraz dismissed Greig and Knott cheaply. Full attendance 33,870; receipts £24,063.

© John Wisden & Co