The sun had dipped beneath the horizon and night was fast approaching when England turned a tour of significant progress into one of historic success. It was 5.52 p.m. - around 45 minutes after play would normally have been suspended for bad light - when an inside edge by Graham Thorpe gave England victory by six wickets in the deciding Third Test and a 1-0 triumph in the series. England's first tour of Pakistan for 13 years - since Mike Gatting, Shakoor Rana and all that - was always likely to be notable, but their win, and the manner in which it was achieved, was epoch-making. England had not won a Test match in Pakistan since their first full tour in 1961-62.
Nasser Hussain's presence at the wicket when the winning runs were scampered was entirely appropriate. Hussain's year-long struggle for runs continued, and as a batsman he made scant contribution. Yet the England captain was a towering figure. He was tactically sharp, refused to allow the frustrations and restrictions peculiar to touring Pakistan to affect his squad, motivated them superbly and, not least, displayed commendable restraint at being given out incorrectly at least three times on the tour, twice in the Second Test alone.
The technically enhanced television pictures and photographers' stills gave little indication of the darkness at the moment of victory. When Hussain lifted the trophy for winning the series, just 15 minutes later, it could have been midnight. There was hardly time or opportunity for an evening of celebration. There was some beer and wine, courtesy of the British Embassy, but the players soon headed for the airport, intoxicated by their unexpected triumph.
Apart from Hussain, the major contributors were Mike Atherton and Thorpe, with Ashley Giles, Darren Gough and Craig White not far behind. Atherton batted for hours and hours - almost 23 in total - and made significant runs in all three Tests. After years of dodging and ducking the world's fastest bowlers, he now provided a series of masterclasses in the art of batting against spin. He played the ball late, his concentration was unbreakable, his footwork decisive and his hands were so soft he might have been holding a feather duster, not a stick of willow.
Similarly, the left-handed Thorpe's judgment of line and length was expert, his one lapse coming in the Second Test when he was bowled offering no shot. He also showed limitless patience, and his Lahore century included just a single boundary. The calm way he refused to be disturbed by the fading light or Pakistan's delaying tactics in Karachi was an outstanding demonstration of mental strength. He had controversially missed the previous winter's tour of South Africa to spend more time with his family but, with his batting here, Thorpe's rehabilitation as an international cricketer was complete.
Having taken one for 106 in his only previous Test, Giles quickly emerged as England's foremost spinner, and his 17 wickets were a record for an England bowler in a series in Pakistan, surpassing the 14 taken by another left-arm spinner, Nick Cook, in 1983-84. Giles never looked like being a world-beater, but he showed control, patience and unflappability. His success was in marked contrast to the hapless Ian Salisbury who, recalled to the England team after more than two years, managed just one for 193 in three Tests. He lacked control and, with Hussain using him only reluctantly, his confidence drained. Salisbury was subsequently dropped for England's tour of Sri Lanka in early 2001, having originally been selected; it was a public and humiliating rebuff.
White, at the age of 30, continued his emergence in 2000 as a genuine international all-rounder, more than six years after his Test debut. He was England's most aggressive batsman and, at times, their fastest bowler. White's game was all about confidence and feeling wanted. Gough, on the other hand, had never lacked confidence and, after a wicketless First Test, he overcame the moribund pitches with his indomitable spirit and willingness to experiment. Variety was particularly necessary because he failed to achieve his expected reverse swing.
The portents for the tour were not encouraging. England arrived in Pakistan after a fortnight in Nairobi, where they beat Bangladesh but then produced a thoroughly inept performance to be thrashed by South Africa in the ICC Knockout tournament. Within a further two months, however, coach Duncan Fletcher and Hussain had completed a highly successful year, during which England won Test series against Zimbabwe, West Indies and Pakistan.
The pitches, believed to be Pakistan's greatest aid, ultimately contributed to their downfall. After England successfully chased more than 300 in the first one-day international, Pakistan won the final two on sharply turning surfaces. So the instruction went out to groundsmen to prepare cracked, turning pitches for the Tests. To increase home advantage, England played their warm-up games on seaming strips more akin to Lord's than Lahore. In the event, the Test pitches were too slow. There was turn, but batsmen could adjust their shots. England spent hours practising in the nets against local spinners, and the results were instantly apparent as they batted into the third day in the First Test. Saqlain Mushtaq took all eight wickets in England's first innings, but he was never as potent again. Pakistan altogether used six spin bowlers.
At times during the tour, there was evidence of divisions in Pakistan's camp. Before the one-day series, a number of senior players expressed dissatisfaction with coach Javed Miandad over the distribution of the prize money for reaching the semi-finals in Nairobi, and they were later said to be unhappy also with his degree of control over the team. Later, Wasim Akram did not play in Karachi, in what would have been his 101st Test. The official explanation was that he had strained his back while warming up, but many suspected he had been dropped. Moin Khan kept his job as captain but had to face an inquest from Lt-General Tauqir Zia, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board. Apart from Yousuf Youhana, who scored 342 runs in four innings, and Inzamam-ul-Haq, with 303 in five, Pakistan's batting lacked consistency.
For much of the time, the cricket was slow and attritional. But there was no shortage of incident on and off the field. Andrew Flintoff, for example, endured an amazing few weeks. Five days after being told he must go home before the Test leg of the tour, because his chronic back condition prevented him fulfilling his role as an all-rounder, he helped England to victory in the first one-day international with a swashbuckling 84. Flintoff was replaced by Alex Tudor but, when both Hussain and Michael Vaughan sustained injuries, he was recalled from Lancashire as a specialist batsman. Within hours of his return - to discover no bedroom was available when his flight arrived in the early hours - he had his nose broken while batting at his first practice session; in his only subsequent innings, he was out first ball.
Alec Stewart's naming in the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation's report into match-fixing - bookmaker M. K. Gupta claimed he paid him £5,000 in 1992-93 for pitch and team information - cast a shadow over his trip. Stewart was visibly shattered by the allegation and eventually decided to defend his reputation at a news conference. Although the reverberations diminished by the end of the tour, Stewart's contribution with the bat was minimal.
There had been controversy as England first flew in after ECB chairman Lord MacLaurin was quoted as saying that the Pakistanis under suspicion for match-fixing following the Qayyum Report - in other words, several of their senior players - should be suspended until such time as their names were cleared. This caused outrage in Pakistan, and gave rise to accusations of double standards when MacLaurin endorsed Stewart's continued participation in the series.
England's players encountered dew, flies and tear-gas during matches, as well as the normal ration of controversial umpiring decisions. But they were able to choose the same eleven for three successive Tests for the first time since their tour of India in 1984-85. Marcus Trescothick attempted to be positive, but tailed off after scoring 71 in the First Test. Graeme Hick made an important contribution on the final day of the tour but, after reckless shot selection and static footwork in the first two Tests, would not have been playing but for Vaughan's calf injury. Andrew Caddick, disheartened by the flat pitches and some umpiring decisions, managed only three Test wickets. Of those who did not play in the Tests, Matthew Hoggard took 17 wickets in his two first-class matches, reserve wicket-keeper Paul Nixon was popular and worked hard in the gym on his first tour, and Tudor played just once. Dominic Cork went home early with a back injury.
Match reports for
Sind Governor's XI v England XI at Karachi, Oct 20, 2000
Pakistan A v England XI at Karachi, Oct 22, 2000
Tour Match: Pakistan Cricket Board Patron's XI v England XI at Rawalpindi, Nov 1-4, 2000
Tour Match: North West Frontier Province Governor's XI v England XI at Peshawar, Nov 8-11, 2000
Tour Match: Pakistan Cricket Board XI v England XI at Lahore, Nov 23-25, 2000