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At Faisalabad, November 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 2005. Drawn. Toss: Pakistan.
Had it produced a result, and had it been played in the aftermath of anything but the summer's Ashes, the Faisalabad Test could have harboured pretensions to epic stature. It offered ferocity of incident, honest battle, and an occasionally electric ambience.
Twenty-five minutes into the final afternoon, a result did beckon. The fierce pace of Shoaib Akhtar and the nuanced bowling of Rana Naved-ul-Hasan (who, with Shahid Afridi, had displaced Hasan Raza and Shabbir Ahmed) had dismissed England's top four in six overs, three of them contributing zero. But, with bad light as their twelfth man - it ended play early every day, costing 55 overs in all - the lower-middle order bravely clawed their way to safety.
Perhaps it was the dust in the air, but a mild storm brewed as early as the first evening. Vaughan had returned in place of Collingwood and immediately called wrong. Then Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf had studiously fixed a faltering Pakistani start on an amiable pitch. Inzamam crept to 38 in 37 overs by tea, while Yousuf's watchful 78 occupied more than three hours. Then he drove back at Bell, who dived low for a catch. Yousuf lingered, England celebrated, the umpires dithered but eventually gave it out without consulting the third umpire. Replays showed the ball kissing the ground.
That paved the way for Afridi's entry into the series. A crowd of 17,000 (70% of tickets were free to combat dwindling Test attendances) raucously accompanied his every step down the stairs. And he obliged. After a wide first ball, he slogged, slapped and sliced the next three for four. He struck four sixes that evening: Harmison was manhandled over midwicket, while Udal was hoisted on to the roof, swept into the square-leg stands, and hit on to the roof again after changing ends. By the close, Afridi was 67 to Inzamam's 80, despite giving him a 49-run start. In 18 overs, a middling 201 for four had become an imposing 300.
But even that manic assault was merely a harbinger of the dramatic second day. It started in similar vein: in four deliveries from Hoggard, Afridi hit two more sixes, a four and a catch to slip - gone for 92 in 85 balls. Inzamam equalled Javed Miandad's Pakistan record of 23 Test centuries; soon after, he gently drove back to Harmison, the bowler, who reflexively threw back at the stumps and appealed for a run-out. After prolonged deliberation, third umpire Nadeem Ghauri gave it. Replays did not conclusively reveal Inzamam's position; more importantly, as he was clearly moving to avoid injury from the throw, according to Law 38.2, he should not have been out. It hastened the end of the innings, just after lunch.
The debate was temporarily upstaged by a deafening blast on the boundary. Players ran to the middle, cordoned by security, the crowd moved away and police rushed to the site. With security an ever-present issue, the tour briefly teetered. Within minutes, however, it emerged that a gas cylinder inside a soft-drinks dispenser had burst. During the hold-up, Afridi pirouetted forcibly on the pitch, trying to scuff it up for the spinners; the TV cameras had not been distracted, and he was banned for one Test and two oneday internationals.
The third day was very much the day after, slumbering as Pietersen and Bell stabilised England by adding 154. Pakistan fluffed a stumping off Bell, then dropped him once and Pietersen twice. Pietersen was spikily dismissive, Bell resolutely orthodox, equally unruffled against the spin of Kaneria (wicketless in this match) and Shoaib Akhtar's pace. The match was meandering until it was jerked to life by Shoaib, in a raw fiveover spell which turned the atmosphere carnival and carnivorous. Pietersen hooked the new ball for his third six, to bring up a century; he tried again off the next delivery, only to pull-lob a quicker, straighter ball to mid-on. In his next over, Shoaib hurled himself at Flintoff, who found himself beaten, his bat broken and, finally, his stumps bowled over at 91mph. Bell completed his own hundred, but England slept on 391 for seven: the match could have gone either way.
The eventual culpability for the draw lay as much with Pakistan's stuttering approach on the fourth day as with the poor light. England finished only 16 behind their total of 462, thanks to a last-wicket stand of pure comedy - Udal hit Shoaib for two fours and a six, Harmison reverse-swept Kaneria for four. At that point, Pakistan's unfamiliarity with leading a series, something they had not managed for two years, showed. Shoaib Malik and Salman Butt brought up a pedantic 50 in 18 overs by lunch. After 42 overs, they were 108 for three, dangling uneasily between ensuring safety and trying to seal the series.
Butt's dismissal for 50 was the last contentious umpiring interjection. He took a single off Udal, but Darrell Hair called dead ball, because Butt had run on the pitch. The ball was replayed, and Butt was trapped leg-before: he claimed later that Hair had not spoken to Pakistan, as he was obliged to do, before giving them an official warning. With the camel's back already bearing the Yousuf catch, Inzamam's run-out and what the home players saw as Hair's officiousness, this straw broke it. The team management informed the ICC of their concerns.
Three further wickets before a freefalling sun called time exposed the perils of indecision. Flintoff found extra lift, forcing Yousuf to play on, and his next ball tore through Afridi's bat, pad and stumps. Silence gripped the stadium as Flintoff stood, arms outstretched, another match seemingly tweaked. Overnight, England's target was 199, with the tail to remove.
Inzamam remained, however, and next morning he produced a masterpiece, though one that inverted tail-end tradition. He allowed his partners to eat up overs, focusing himself only on scoring. Repeatedly, he took singles off the first ball of the over; at one stage, he played nine balls to Shoaib Akhtar's 45. Occasionally, he detonated, as when he smacked Harmison over everyone's head for six. When he brought up his second hundred of the game, going past Miandad's 23, Inzamam declared 284 ahead. He had at least removed defeat from the equation, and four quick wickets suggested it might be solved by victory.
An understated fifty from Flintoff balanced the equation again, and meant that all four of England's Tests at Faisalabad have been drawn, including the Gatting-Shakoor Rana confrontation of 1987-88 whose storms this match had, less divisively, evoked.
Man of the Match: Inzamam-ul-Haq.