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In a major departure from practice and tradition, Pakistan played host to West Indies on foreign soil. Two Tests, both of which Pakistan won emphatically, and three one-day internationals were staged at the Sharjah CA Stadium in the space of 18 days.
Test matches had been played on neutral territory before, during the Triangular Tournament in England in 1912 and, more recently, when Dhaka staged the final of the Asian Test Championship in 1998-99. This was different because it was the only alternative to the tour being cancelled, at high cost to the Pakistan Cricket Board. Their finances had already suffered from the abandonment of visits by New Zealand and Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11. On top of that, West Indies feared an outbreak of hostilities between Pakistan and India. The ICC therefore approved the transfer to Sharjah, and ruled that the Tests would still count as a home series for Pakistan in the Test Championship.
The original itinerary included three Tests, but was truncated because 18 full days on the same ground was deemed impractical. There were grave doubts about the durability of the pitches at a venue which had been used only for limited-overs cricket (a record 181 internationals since 1983-84). As it happened, they played reasonably well. The spinners were expected to wreak havoc on cracked surfaces, but it was pace and reverse swing that did more damage, claiming 48 wickets to spin's 19.
Both sides were depleted by injuries. Pakistan were without Saeed Anwar and, for the Tests, Wasim Akram. But they were not undermined by their absence, as West Indies were by that of Brian Lara, who had enjoyed a phenomenal series in Sri Lanka only two months earlier, and Ramnaresh Sarwan. The problem was exacerbated when Sherwin Campbell fractured a finger during the First Test and Marlon Samuels, the only batting reserve, went home for knee surgery. No one managed a century for West Indies during the Tests, and the only innings in which they achieved respectability was the very first. A total of 366 featured five fifties, one of them from the debutant Ryan Hinds, a 20-year-old left-hander who looked a cricketer of distinct promise. Their attack, too, was moderate, but at least showed endeavour and discipline, and Merv Dillon excelled himself. He would have been an even bigger force with better support from the field. The catching, both close in and further out, was abysmal: West Indies missed at least 17 chances, which put them right out of contention.
Pakistan were barely handicapped by the poor starts given them by their openers, or by Inzamam-ul-Haq's lack of form. Yousuf Youhana, who had scored two centuries in his previous three Tests against West Indies, and Younis Khan made hundreds, as did Rashid Latif and Shahid Afridi, who both benefited from several dropped catches. Waqar Younis was a potent force, and the slow pitch was no curb on Shoaib Akhtar. Abdul Razzaq's reverse swing was also a deadly weapon: nine wickets at 14, coupled with 143 runs, made him Man of the Series. He picked up the same award after the one-dayers, which Pakistan won before Carl Hooper's unbeaten century earned West Indies a consolation victory.
The Test series was the first played under the surveillance of the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit, represented by two former police officers from England. The approaches to the dressing-rooms were watched over by closed-circuit television cameras, though these seemed superfluous, because the attendance was so small that every single person at the ground was conspicuous and identifiable. In a stadium seating 20,000, a few hundred turned up for the Tests, until the authorities belatedly decided to admit schoolchildren free. But these figures were immaterial. Hosting the series in Sharjah enabled the Pakistan Board to salvage their much-needed revenue from TV rights.
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