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No tour - save, perhaps, the Australians' first visit after Bodyline - can ever have needed more delicate handling than this one. Yet Pakistan achieved the remarkable feat of spreading goodwill while winning a Test series and administering two hefty defeats on England. When they left England in 1992, feeling falsely accused and deeply insulted, Imran Khan predicted in print that no official Pakistan team would ever set foot in the country again. Though that prophecy always seemed a mite over-emotional, the sentiment was understandable. There was so much mutual mistrust that sporting relations between the two nations could not have survived another series ablaze with accusations of ball-tempering, sweater-throwing and umpire-baiting.
The fact that Pakistan managed to play their usual exhilarating, strong-arm glamorous cricket, yet still kept the peace, was a diplomatic triumph which must be attributed to tour manager Yawar Saeed and, even more so, to captain Wasim Akram. There was little starch in Yawar's approach to public relations. Unlike the early-season India tourists, Pakistan had no internal troubles to hide. The players were encouraged to mingle, talk and, above all, entertain. They did all three. The world's most fractious team seemed to have found an unprecedented unity since the Pakistan public turned on them after the defeat by India in the World Cup just over three months earlier.
Wasim had been the most cruelly hounded. He was subjected to outrageous insults in local newspapers and effigies of him were burned in the streets. He kept his job and his dignity and, in the process, earned the kind of respect he never enjoyed when his first misguided spell as captain was ended by a players' rebellion. There were, paradoxically, few times during the tour when Wasim looked, with either ball or bat, the great all-rounder he undoubtedly is. Perhaps he expended so much energy damping down emotions that his own game never caught fire. He began the three-match series needing 11 wickets to become only the 11th bowler to take 300 Test wickets. He did not reach that target until a perfect yorker bowled Alan Mullally and ended England's innings in the final Test at The Oval. He finished on his knees, arms upraised in a gesture that was part triumph, part prayer of thanksgiving. Throughout the tour he said he was unworried by his own lack of form. It never got in the way of his job as manipulator of a team so obviously superior that only a freak English pitch or their own suspect temperament threatened to defeat them. He has learned a lot since he first walked into the traditionally down-to-earth, classless, Lancashire dressing-room in 1988 - not only about English conditions but about English attitudes. Nowadays, he is not a man to take offence easily. His leadership is the antithesis of the posturing and confrontational style that made Javed Miandad the detonator for so many of the 1992 explosions. Wasim was always quick to intervene to calm jangling Pakistan nerves, but never theatrical.
Quite a few landmines were laid in his path. Allan Lamb, whose ball-tampering accusations had caused the major crisis on the previous tour, had strategically resigned from Northamptonshire so that Test and County Cricket Board rules could not prevent him raking over the old ashes in a ghosted autobiography; the newspaper serialization was timed to coincide with the tour In the event, those embers were cold, grey and unenlightening. The real, hurtful mud was being slung daily in the High Court where, by some mischievous quirk of the legal calendar, the libel case brought against Imran Khan by Ian Botham and Lamb provided a lurid and, at times, unintentionally hilarious curtain-raiser to the First Test at Lord's. England captain Mike Atherton and coach David Lloyd were the most reluctant witnesses, called on the eve of the Test. Lloyd, in particular, protested that it interfered with England's preparations. To his credit, he did not offer that as an excuse for the defeat which settled the course of the series.
There had always been a suspicion that England's 1-0 series win over an under-prepared and disorganised India was something of a false dawn, and that reality would be restored once they were confronted by a team with three world-class bowlers - Wasim, Waqar Younis and Mustaq Ahmed - and a handful of batsmen of dazzling, if vulnerable, brilliance. So it proved. Though Pakistan may be gloriously unpredictable, England are not. They lost the opening Test through a hopeless batting collapse, drew the second by wasting heaven-sent conditions at Headingley and were overwhelmed by weight of runs and Mushtaq's unrelenting spin at The Oval.
Pakistan had arrived while English cricket's other great cause célèbre of 1996 - the Illingworth-Malcolm Affair - was still rumbling through the TCCB's own judicial system. And through the Pakistan series, the hands-on chairman of selectors, dignity badly bruised though still cussed, kept a deliberately low profile - so bland that it was no longer possible to assess how much influence the once omnipotent Illingworth had on selection or policy. Bowling coach Peter Lever, his first lieutenant in the campaign to smooth out Malcolm's action, submitted his resignation on the eve of the Second Test and later threatened, somewhat vaguely, to tell all about the political manoeuvrings behind the scenes.
All this left Lloyd with greater responsibility for the day-to-day running of the team, an authority that was to be confirmed by the regrading of his job in the report of the Acfield working party. He had bubbled with infectious enthusiasm through the early part of the summer, but, like the team and an expectant public, wilted a bit on the last day at Lord's. In that match, England never recovered from the third-wicket stand of 130 between Saeed Anwar and Inzamam-ul-Haq which rescued Pakistan's first innings. The left-handed Anwar's 74 typified the uninhibitedness of modern Pakistani batsmanship. Inzamam, almost two stones lighter since he was ordered on a crash diet after the World Cup, batted with the same freedom to make 148. He was the first of five Pakistanis to make hundreds in the series, being followed by Ijaz Ahmed, Moin Khan, Anwar and, eventually, Salim Malik, at the end of an undistinguished summer by his standards. Opener Aamir Sohail, the batting revelation of their last tour, hurt his finger in the First Test and was relatively subdued when he came back for the last.
Though admiring, Lloyd called Pakistan's batsmen "get-out-able", but England spent half the summer searching for an attack able to justify the phrase. The main problem was that Cork, their only potential match-winner, was palpably worn out, so jaded by overwork and persistent knee trouble that even his appealing lost some of its hysteria. Still unprepared to trust Darren Gough, their biggest hope barely a year earlier, England gave one Test to Durham's journeyman pace bowler Simon Brown and, odder still, one to the rejuvenated Andrew Caddick. Though he was the pick of the four seamers who failed at Headingley, Caddick was left out of the final Test because of Atherton's misguided belief that Chris Lewis's latest revival would last the summer. In fact, his comeback ended in controversy. Lewis was late reporting at The Oval on Sunday - he blamed it on a flat tyre - and was crossed out of the squad for the three one-day matches and, inevitably, out of the winter tour of Zimbabwe and New Zealand. With hindsight, the Lewis question should have been faced before it had such a damaging effect.
The other question, concerning the future of Graeme Hick, was resolved at Lord's when Waqar twice exposed his frailty against high-quality fast bowling. Waqar may no longer have the devastating pace of his youth (the new and occasionally accurate electronic speed-gun introduced to measure all the bowlers rarely rated him much above 80 m.p.h.). But he has a unique ability to swing the ball which can no longer be tarnished by disbelieving stares and insinuations of illegality. The umpires did have trouble with the ball, but only because it kept losing its shape. Waqar took eight wickets in the First Test and, when Atherton and Stewart threatened to drag out England's second innings long enough to save the match, Mushtaq produced the bowling spell which reduced England from 168 for one to an all-out 243. Mushtaq's years with Somerset have hardened him, increased his variety and improved what now seems an inexhaustible patience - all the more galling for England, who spent the summer bemoaning the absence of a genuine, home-grown spinner. The relaunch of leg-spinner Ian Salisbury was scuttled by the brutality of Pakistan's batting and they did not put their trust in the steadiness of off-spinner Robert Croft until their Sixth Test of the summer. By then, Mushtaq had a hypnotic hold on England, finishing with 17 wickets, including the six for 78 which won the final Test. It was difficult to accept the Pakistanis' belief that he had overtaken a fully-fit Shane Warne as the world's premier wrist-spinner; he does not, for a start, turn the ball as wickedly as the Australian. Yet his accuracy is immaculate and his subtlety boundless.
Encouragingly, England came through the series in some ways toughened rather than demoralized by defeat. The top six looked, at least temperamentally, stronger than it had for years. Stewart, dismissing the notion that he was over the hill, flourished, winning back his place as opener and making 170 at Headingley. Nick Knight hit his maiden Test century in the same match and John Crawley, a talent held back by injury, followed suit at The Oval. England, though, were no nearer finding a true Test all-rounder or of unearthing bowlers with the bite or the know-how to live with top-class opposition.
Pakistan, in contrast, looked capable of growing into the best, most entertaining side in the world. They have never been scared to throw in young talent, and three of this summer's crop, all officially less than 20, seemed destined for greater things. Off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, already rated, at 19, the best of his type in the game, could not squeeze into the side until the anticlimactic one-day matches. Shabad Kabir showed nerve and a sound technique when he deputized as opener for Sohail. And Shahid Nazir, who bowls surprisingly quickly off a disarmingly gentle run-up, launched what could be a distinguished international career by leaving Atherton wincing with pain after being hit on the thumb by the youngster's second ball. That was during Pakistan's only win in the three limited-overs internationals.
Those two one-day defeats by England, and one inflicted by Warwickshire over three days, were the only minor blemishes on Pakistan's record. They went home fully expecting to be garlanded by the very people who had abused them only months earlier. If there had been a cross word all tour, it must have been muttered under their breath - even though there were more questionable umpiring decisions than on their previous explosive visit. Some of the mistakes were glaring, some crucial, but they were fairly evenly spread between the two sides. Pakistan, who had campaigned vociferously for neutral umpires, might now be convinced that neutrality does not mean infallibility. And Lord's might question the cricketing, if not financial, wisdom of allowing huge video screens to undermine the umpires' confidence. Once, we were assured that no controversial incidents would be played back. Now they are shown repeatedly and have encouraged a new form of player dissent. Batsmen dissatisfied with their dismissal walk off craning their necks to make sure the replay proves their point. One day, perhaps, one will be provoked into going back to plead his case with photographic evidence.
Wasim Akram (PIA) (captain), Aamir Sohail (Lahore/Allied Bank) (vice-captain), Asif Mujtaba (Karachi/PIA), Ata-ur-Rehman (Lahore/Allied Bank), Ijaz Ahmed, Sen. (Lahore/Habib Bank), Inzamam-ul-Haq (United Bank), Mohammad Akram (Rawalpindi), Moin Khan (Karachi/PIA), Mushtaq Ahmed (Islamabad/United Bank), Rashid Latif (Karachi/United Bank), Saeed Anwar (ADBP), Salim Malik (Habib Bank), Saqlain Mushtaq (Islamabad/PIA), Shadab Kabir (Karachi), Shahid Anwar (Lahore/National Bank), Shahid Nazir (Faisalabad), Waqar Younis (United Bank).
Tour Manager: Yawar Saeed. Assistant manager: Nasim-ul-Ghani.
Test matches - Played 3: Won 2, Drawn 1.
First-class matches - Played 11: Won 7, Lost 1, Drawn 3.
Wins - England (2), Somerset, Kent, Durham, Leicestershire, Essex.
Loss - Warwickshire.
Draws - England, Glamorgan, Northamptonshire.
One-day internationals - Played 3: Won 1, Lost 2.
Other non-first-class Matches - Played 4: Won 4. Wins - England NCA, Minor Counties, MCC, Scotland.
Match reports for
Match reports for