The distance from Chelmsford to Karachi is roughly 5000 miles, and the conditions for cricket in either are about as divergent as it gets. Yet in November 1987, Essex's Graham Gooch played an innings of such mastery in Pakistan's largest city that you would have thought he had been batting there all his life.
In 1987, the World Cup was held outside England for the first time, co-hosted by India and Pakistan. England were narrowly beaten in the final by Allan Border's Australia at Calcutta's Eden Gardens and just ten days later began a tour of three one-day games followed by three Tests against Pakistan.
Coming so soon after the World Cup, it was unappealing to players and fans alike and was marred in controversy. It was the tour where Mike Gatting and umpire Shakoor Rana had a blazing row which required the intervention of the British High Commission to prevent the tour being cancelled.
''We were so deflated after the World Cup. Picking yourself up and having another six weeks in Pakistan was tough going," says Phil DeFreitas, a key member of England's bowling attack. "You're representing your country, so you just get on with it, but we didn't feel that things went our way. It was a tough tour."
England's players did not stay in the luxurious five-star hotels they do now. Jack Russell, on his first England tour, recalls: "We lived on Cup-a-Soup and baked beans. I volunteered myself to be in charge of the team microwave. I can still do a great Peshawar hotpot - microwave tinned stew and baked beans."
England won the first ODI in Lahore by two wickets. In Karachi for the second game, Gatting won the toss and batted. Pakistan were not at full strength, missing Imran Khan and Javed Miandad, but they had a trump card in Abdul Qadir. A spinner of real class, he had a dazzling repertoire of legspinners and the googly. Later, Gooch would remark that Qadir was harder to play than Shane Warne.
"We lived on Cup-a-Soup and baked beans. I volunteered myself to be in charge of the team microwave. I can still do a great Peshawar hotpot" Jack Russell
Realising that Qadir would be hard to score off on a dry pitch, Gooch drove the score on early, a cause helped by Wasim Akram pulling his groin after four overs. The quick but erratic Mohsin Kamal received punishment with the new ball, while Asif Mujtaba, bowling left-arm spin, was hit out of the attack after three overs that cost 25 runs. At 140 for 3, Chris Broad, Gatting and Neil Fairbrother had been dismissed for a combined total of 45, while Gooch approached his century.
It was an era of one-day cricket played in whites with red balls, where a strike rate above 70 was considered good. "Nowadays, people play different shots, whereas then if you could hit a spot people would struggle to get you away," says DeFreitas. On a slow surface, Gooch was scoring at better than a run a ball.
The year 1987 had been a difficult one for Gooch. He had not played Test cricket for England since the previous August and had been dropped to Essex's second team, after which he enlisted Geoffrey Boycott to help correct a technical flaw. But an upturn in form led to his selection for the World Cup, where he led the run-scoring charts with 471 from eight games.
During the semi-final, Gooch made a brilliant 115, sweeping India's spinners to oblivion on a turning wicket in Bombay. India knew Gooch would sweep occasionally but he swept hard and often from almost any line and length in a premeditated fashion. In Karachi, all but Qadir got the same treatment. While the legspinner finished with 3 for 30 from eight overs, the other spinners conceded 136 off 20.
The mark of an accomplished operator in the subcontinent is lightness of foot and also quickness of mind. During the World Cup, Qadir had bamboozled England in Rawalpindi; in Karachi, Gooch saw him off. When he did attack, he stuck to his method. "Most of the team were struggling with Qadir's fast legspin," remembers Russell. "But Goochie attacked him by sweeping him hard, square, which Qadir didn't like.'
His success was no fluke. "He practised for hours sweeping the spinners because he knew that was going to be their attack," says DeFreitas. "His preparation was unbelievable. Goochie was a true professional and he trained hard in Pakistan, which was him down to a tee."
England passed 250 with a hundred partnership between Gooch and David Capel before Gooch was finally dismissed by Qadir. Gooch had scored 142 off 134 balls, hitting 14 fours. England defended their 263 for 6 and won by 23 runs, Pakistan's innings notable for Ramiz Raja being given out obstructing the field on 99.
Gatting's side completed a series whitewash in Peshawar, although they lost the Test series 1-0. "We were in good form. We should have won the World Cup, and the majority of the side was still there. It was due to pure frustration that we went on to win the one-day series 3-0," says DeFreitas.
Has any English batsman played spin in one-day cricket as well as Gooch did at that time? Graham Thorpe and Kevin Pietersen perhaps, but it would be tough to call. Gooch's innings remains the second highest score for England in one-day cricket in the subcontinent and the only one-day century by an Englishman against Pakistan in Pakistan.
For England's players, the tour was a unique test of resolve. Putting Pakistan's spinners to the sword in their own backyard is no mean feat, but Gooch's fierce professionalism and skill inspired what is surely one of the great England one-day innings.