New Zealand 1 England 1

England in Pakistan and New Zealand, 1977-78

If judged solely by a playing record of only one victory in six Test matches, a first-ever defeat by New Zealand, and two drawn series, England's twin tour in the vastly different conditions of Pakistan and New Zealand could be dismissed as a failure. It was also true that no practical headway was made to solve the problem of the specialised batting.

But such a verdict would be unduly harsh. Botham emerged as a considerable all-rounder with a pugnacious attitude to reinforce his high talent. Few players in the history of the game have enjoyed a triumph to match his many-sided successes in the second Test against New Zealand at Christchurch - and in only his fourth outing for England. He batted, bowled, and fielded with the style and confidence of a titan.

Edmonds also made his presence felt as slow left-arm bowler, magnificent and brave close-in fielder, and model team man. No one in a party of hardworkers spent more hours at the nets to improve his play at all levels, and deservedly he created a record for an England bowler in Pakistan with seven wickets in an innings; at Karachi.

Miller played two big Test innings and was desperately unlucky not to score a century at Lahore. He was 98 when his last partner, Willis, was given out.

Taylor, so long in Knott's shadow, laid claim to be the best wicket-keeper in the world - as well as batting usefully - while the fast bowling, spearheaded by Willis, and the fielding and catching remained at a peak standard. It was repeatedly described as the best from an England side in New Zealand.

The always-great responsibility borne by Boycott doubled when Brearley broke his arm before the third Test at Karachi - infuriatingly in a one-day game of no consequence and to the only ball of the day that reared off a reasonable length.

England could ill afford the loss of Brearley as opening batsman, and the captaincy passed to Boycott, who lost no time in putting his vast experience and clear ideas of leadership into effect.

From the start Boycott had played his full and enthusiastic part as vice-captain, and he slipped painlessly into his new role. There were times, however, when the strain of keeping the batting together was reflected in his scoring rate. The obvious answer to any criticism of Boycott is to ask where England would have been without him.

While often doing well against strong opposition, Rose was unable to reproduce his form in the Tests and eventually lost his place at Auckland. Randall, trying hard to overcome his habit of fidgeting at the crease, fell a long way short of the standard he set himself in the Melbourne Centenary Test. Roope was something of an enigma, playing attractively on many occasions and yet failing to reach what one felt was the true level of his ability in Tests.

Like Randall he made an immense contribution with his fielding. There have been few better slip catchers in the game than Roope, and it was a great encouragement to Willis - regarded by New Zealand batsmen as faster than Dennis Lillee, whom they had faced a year before - Old, Hendrick, Botham, and Lever to enjoy such splendid support.

Old's most valuable contribution was to bowl into a gale in the first Test at Wellington and return his best figures for England. Both he and Willis bowled well enough to have ensured a comfortable win for England.

However, Old's performance with the bat suggested his rank as an all-rounder was optimistic. He was too fallible against fast bowling. Lever was always useful, if only to present a different line of attack. He adds stamina and zest to his excellent bowling.

Hendrick was wretchedly unlucky and should have had a better tour, especially with his swing and cut on the uncertain pitches of New Zealand. If he didn't beat the bat, he was as likely as not being snicked for runs.

The off-spinners, Cope and Miller, suffered from the slow surfaces of Pakistan and a different interpretation of the leg-before law in New Zealand. As Fred Titmus discovered on a previous tour of Australia and New Zealand, batsmen were allowed to sweep with impunity. Cope, a 100 per cent team man, had the consolation of making his first appearances for England.

England's two apprentices, reserve wicket-keeper Downton and all-rounder Gatting, had restricted opportunities, though Gatting played in two Tests. Both absorbed the atmosphere of a Test dressing-room, and, with relish, the advice and generous help.

The peak achievement for Downton, chosen after only seven first-class games for Kent, was to take six catches in an innings at Dunedin. Radley, Brearley's replacement, had the distinction of making 158 in only his second Test.

In contrast to the criticism of 1975, when the players were jaded and dispirited from the drubbing by Lillee and Thomson, there was little but praise for a side always willing to help promote the game in New Zealand. A profit helped to prove that, despite the extra cost, a separate tour of the country was justified.

Sadly, an unfortunate action by bowler Chatfield in running out Randall at the non-striker's end without warning put a temporary strain on the good relations between the teams.

Chatfield suddenly stopped and whipped the bails off underarm, and there was a suspicion that the victim would not have been out of his ground but for the change of action. The incident was greatly to be deplored.

New Zealand's triumph at Wellington understandably sent a thrill of achievement through the length and breath of New Zealand, and was warmly received throughout the cricket world. Though England gained quick revenge, it was an occasion to savour.

After the grassless slow-turners of Pakistan, England had to readapt themselves to fast surfaces, often with variable heights, in New Zealand. The pitches for the last two Tests, at Christchurch and Auckland, were, however, beyond criticism. As grounds have to be shared with football authorities, and there was a drought of rare severity, there were difficulties to overcome.

Pitches must also be the concern of Pakistan where, almost inevitably, all three Tests were drawn. Since Dexter's side won the first official Test at Lahore in 1961, no fewer than eleven matches by England in Pakistan have been inconclusive.

Touring in Pakistan is never easy, and although the old enemies of food and accommodation have, in the main, been overcome, there remain crowd indiscipline and a shadowy political background. An obsessive fear of defeat seems to prevail. It was evident in the tardy declaration in the Hyderabad Test when England were allowed off the hook, and in the dubious enterprise to woo back Packer players to the fold.

From the moment of England's arrival, some Pakistani sources harped on the loss of Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Imran Khan, and Mushtaq Mohammad - Asif Iqbal had retired from Test cricket - and a campaign of some proportion was mounted, designed to ensure their return from Australia for the series.

The first intimation that practical steps had been taken to include Packer men - aptly dubbed Packerstanis - for the first Test at Lahore came briefly on the radio when the touring team were in faraway Peshawar, the frontier town at the gateway to the Khyber Pass. It was also surprising news to Imtiaz Ahmed, chairman of selectors, who was attending the match.

Contact was made with Mushtaq Mohammad in Australia, and the sequel was to announce no fewer than 23 names for the match - a farcical situation which remained until just before the start. Not surprisingly the four Packerites did not appear, but some days before the third Test at Karachi it became known that Mushtaq Mohammad, Zaheer Abbas, and Imran Khan were on their way.

Packer, it was understood, took the three as far as Singapore, together with TV material of his enterprise, where they were met by an official of Pakistan International Airlines. By now it was clear there could only be a head-on collision of ideals.

On the one side there was a determination to play the three come what may. On the other there was a deep conviction by the England party, strongly supported by Pakistan players of the first two Tests, that it was wrong for Packer men who had joined a rival organisation to participate in official Tests. It would be an insult to England to have suggested they were worried by the possible strengthening of the opposition.

The situation was complicated by the inability of the touring party to discover whether the recall of the Packerites was by direct or indirect invitation of the Board, or was the result of an unofficial action by the pro-Packer faction, a try-on by the Packer organisation, or was by command of one of the country's rulers.

There was several meetings by the touring team, and contact was made with administrators, including D.J. Insole, chairman of the Test and County Cricket Board, and D.B. Carr, its secretary. The following statement was issued: "The English touring team are unanimously opposed in principle to players contracted to World Series Cricket being considered for selection for official International Cricket Conference Test matches." It was made clear that it was a team statement, and was read to the assembled media by Brearley, with his broken arm in plaster, shortly before he returned to London.

No official reaction to the gathering crisis came from Pakistan until late on the eve of the Test, and after speculation had been heightened by the appearance of the three Packer men at net practice. The Board of Control statement, however, swiftly removed all doubts.

The players, it said, had arrived "on their own" and had refused to make "an unconditional and unreserved apology" for not being available for the 1977-78 season. The Board, the statement continued, had no intention of dealing outside the established national cricket boards and had no wish to accord any official status to an organiser who "had shown complete disregard to the entire cricket establishment."

It ended: "Moreover, as no organisation can undertake long-term planning without the assurance of continued availability of all possible talent in Pakistan, the BCCP has decided to depend on the talent that is available today and will be available in the future. The Board has therefore advised the chairman and members of the selection committee to restrict their choice to those players who will be available at all times to serve cricket, owing loyalty to the established authority and not to the highest bidder."

Whether the England players would have taken the final step and refused to take part in the Test will never be known, but there was no denying the sincerity of their feelings or where there loyalties went. The Pakistan Board could have avoided much of the trouble and public speculation by making a firm decision early in the dispute.

Unhappily, the bickering over the Packer issue, the riots on successive days during the Lahore Test, the bizarre episode of the walk-out by vice-captain Sarfraz Nawaz at the end of the first Test - only to return before the third - clouded the emergence of much promising talent in Pakistan. Mudassar Nazar, Haroon Rashid, Javed Miandad, Mohsin Khan, and Wasim Raja all batted impressively, and the spinners, Iqbal Qasim and Abdul Qadir, gave promise of good years ahead at Test level.

Match reports for

1st Test: New Zealand v England at Wellington, Feb 10-15, 1978
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: New Zealand v England at Christchurch, Feb 24-Mar 1, 1978
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: New Zealand v England at Auckland, Mar 4-10, 1978
Report | Scorecard

Match reports for

1st Test: Pakistan v England at Lahore, Dec 14-19, 1977
Report | Scorecard

1st ODI: Pakistan v England at Sahiwal, Dec 23, 1977
Report | Scorecard

2nd ODI: Pakistan v England at Sialkot, Dec 30, 1977
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2nd Test: Pakistan v England at Hyderabad (Sind), Jan 2-7, 1978
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3rd ODI: Pakistan v England at Lahore, Jan 13, 1978
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3rd Test: Pakistan v England at Karachi, Jan 18-23, 1978
Report | Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co