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Feature

England in Pakistan: A history of controversy

Among the draws - all 18 of them - there have been protests, flare-ups and the odd moment of success

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
29-Nov-2022
England celebrate stealing the series in 2000-01  •  PA Photos

England celebrate stealing the series in 2000-01  •  PA Photos

After consecutive "home" series on neutral ground in the UAE, Pakistan are finally set to host England for their first Test visit in 17 years. It promises the renewal of a rivalry that has not exactly been packed with tense contests down the years, but has produced an extraordinary amount of controversy. Here's a recap of England's eight previous tours.
1961-62 - England won 1-0
A curious itinerary greeted MCC's first official tour of Pakistan, with the three-match series wrapped either side of a full five-Test visit to India - whose subsequent plans to tour West Indies had caused a fixtures rejig. And as it transpired, the one-off Test in Lahore in October could not have been further removed from the two follow-ups in Dacca and Karachi in January and February, where the tone would be set for a diet of lifeless decks over the subsequent two decades. By then, however, England were already 1-0 up in the series after a gripping final-hour win in Lahore, where the new captain Ted Dexter marshalled a high-tempo run-chase with the elan he would soon be bringing to the new-fangled Gillette One-Day Cup. It would be England's only victory in the country for 39 years, and one of only two to date in 24 Tests and counting.
1968-69 - Series drawn 0-0
South Africa had been England's original winter destination, but the D'Oliveira Affair put paid to that prospect, and as MCC scouted around for a back-up plan, they hit upon a country that was lurching, with ever more volatile certainty, towards revolution. "The Pakistan tour was a fiasco", Wisden intoned, at the end of a stalemate in which the three Tests became focal points for mounting unrest, from the first day of the series in Lahore, to the third and final day of the third Test in Karachi, where play was abandoned after a mob had torn down the gates and vandalised the pitch. In between, the schedule was controversially rejigged to send the teams 1100 miles east to Dacca (now Dhaka), where law and order was already breaking down ahead of the bloody war that would, two years later, lead to the birth of Bangladesh. With the city in a state of siege, it was left to a group of teenaged student leaders to guarantee the team's safety. On the field, a quartet of England centuries were the tour's stand-out performances: Colin Cowdrey in Lahore, D'Oliveira in Dacca, and Colin Milburn and Tom Graveney in Karachi, where Graveney struck two intruders on their backsides with his bat, and quipped: "They were the two best strokes I made on the whole tour."
1972-73 - Series drawn 0-0
An arduous four-month tour, encompassing five Tests in India, three in Pakistan and a first-class stop-over in the newly-renamed Sri Lanka, came to a dispiriting end on a trio of pitches in Lahore, Hyderabad and Karachi that, Wisden moaned, would still have ended as draws "had they gone on playing for the rest of their lives". That said, England were twice obliged to guard against mishap after conceding challenging leads in the first two Tests, but on neither occasion were they bowled out in their second innings. The Karachi Test, once again, was marred by crowd unrest and pitch invasions, and was eventually abandoned early due to a dust-storm, after Norman Gifford's five-for had briefly given England hope of a win against the head. The match also happened to be the last of Tony Lewis's brief reign as captain - he would play one more Test back in the ranks before being dropped for good the following summer - but its most notable detail was arguably the fact that Majid Khan, Mushtaq Mohammad and Dennis Amiss were all dismissed for 99.
1977-78 - Series drawn 0-0
By the end of another chaotic campaign, England had played 12 Tests across 16 years of touring in Pakistan, and drawn each of the last 11 - a record that Wisden attributed to various factors including food, accommodation, crowd indiscipline and "a shadowy political background" but, most of all, to the hosts' "obsessive fear of defeat". The emergence of the legspinner Abdul Qadir seemed to offer Pakistan the means to unlock their own benign surfaces - most particularly in the second Test in Hyderabad, where he exploited the rough created by Bob Willis's heavy-limbed followthrough to take a first-innings 6 for 44. However, Wasim Bari's overly cautious declaration killed off any remaining jeopardy, and not for the first time, the tour's main talking points came off the field: the riots in Lahore that stemmed from a premature celebration of Mudassar Nazar's century, then the threatened recall of the so-called "Packerstanis" - Imran Khan, Mushtaq Mohammad and Zaheer Abbas - all of whom had signed to play in Kerry Packer's inaugural season of World Series Cricket, but whose arrivals in Karachi prior to the third Test caused uproar. It wasn't entirely clear at whose behest they had turned up - it might even have been a publicity stunt from Packer himself - but at the eleventh hour, the Pakistan board confirmed that they would not be considered, and the threat of an England boycott fell away.
1983-84 - Pakistan won 1-0
Qadir's threat was no secret this time around, but his mastery of flight and variation remained unfathomable to England. Barely three days after arriving from a chaotic tour of New Zealand - one beset by injury, ineptitude and subsequent accusations of recreational drug use - England rocked up to the first "result" wicket that they had encountered in more than a decade of Pakistan tours, and finished a distant second-best in a misleadingly tight three-wicket loss. Nick Cook claimed 11 wickets to Qadir's eight, but the legspinner's bamboozling display was best epitomised by a stunning googly that Ian Botham was barely able to pick even after it had nestled in short-leg's hands. "Only a philistine could watch Qadir without fascination," wrote John Thicknesse in The Cricketer. He was briefly neutered on a dead deck in Faisalabad, but burst back to prominence with ten wickets at Lahore as the series ended amid a compelling tussle for the upper hand. Going into the rest day with England still trailing on their second innings, England's captain David Gower - by now deputising for the injured Willis - promised positivity in a bid to square the series, and delivered in person with a magnificent 173. But, after Mohsin Khan and Shoaib Mohammad had matched that total in their opening stand, Gower rather went back on his word with a go-slow in the field, and it took a late five-for from Norman Cowans to guard against an unlikely defeat.
1987-88 - Pakistan won 1-0
Bad blood abounded in one of the most acrimonious series of all time. Mike Gatting's infamous finger-jabbing row with umpire Shakoor Rana in Faisalabad was the image that flashed around the globe in an embodiment of the "it's not cricket!" cliché that the sport still, somehow, clings to to this day. And yet, their stand-off was very much in keeping with the animosity that existed between England and Pakistan throughout the 1980s, as years of festering grievances home and away came to an inevitable climax. Barely four months had elapsed since Pakistan had prevailed on an ill-tempered tour of England, during which complaints about the home umpiring - specifically an old adversary, David Constant - had been batted away by the TCCB. Factor in a draining World Cup campaign in between whiles, in which England's defeat in the final had matched Pakistan's semi-final elimination on home soil in the anti-climax stakes, and the time was hardly ripe to renew such a fractious rivalry. The fuse was lit during the first Test at Lahore, where umpire Shakeel Khan gave - by England's count - nine erroneous decisions, among them Chris Broad, who had to be persuaded to leave the crease by his opening partner, Graham Gooch. The irony was that, with 9 for 56 in the first innings, en route to a series haul of 30 at 14.56, Qadir hardly needed a leg-up to be the difference between the teams. Even so, when the flashpoint came, late on the second day in Faisalabad, it was with England in a position of rare dominance - with Pakistan five-down in their first innings and still almost 200 runs behind. But the loss of the third day's play, with Rana refusing to officiate until Gatting had issued a grudging written apology, kiboshed any hope of a result.
2000-01 - England won 1-0
Fresh from their first victory over West Indies in three decades, Nasser Hussain's England sealed another famous series win, and in incredible circumstances too, with the winning runs in Karachi coming amid ever-encroaching darkness on the final day of the tour. The advent of central contracts and the appointment of Duncan Fletcher as head coach had been significant factors in a heightened team cohesion, but ultimately this tour was a triumph for Hussain's hard-bitten leadership - in particular his insistence that England "stay in the game at all costs", and wait for the pressure to tell on their hosts. Graham Thorpe epitomised this indomitability with a grindingly slow century in Lahore, which contained a solitary boundary in his first 100 runs and in the process thwarted Saqlain Mushtaq, whose eight wickets in the innings came at a cost of 164, and despite a wobble in Faisalabad, they were never seriously in danger of defeat. Then, in Karachi, Mike Atherton responded to Inzamam and Yousuf's twin hundreds with a ten-hour 125, spanning 430 balls at a tempo slower even than his great Johannesburg rearguard - an effort that the Telegraph correspondent Michael Henderson had described as "insufferable". Its impact, however, soon became apparent as Pakistan - in what would these days be acknowledged as a "tricky third innings" - chose neither to stick nor twist in stumbling to 158 all out. England's target, then, was 176 in 44 overs, a chase that Atherton himself ignited with a sprightly 26 from 33. Moin Khan, Pakistan's captain, was unconcerned, knowing full well that the fast-setting winter sun would come to his aid if he slowed the game down. But umpire Steve Bucknor was having none of it, and - with England's 12th man Matthew Hoggard dispatched to sightscreen duties - Thorpe donned his night-vision goggles to seal a famous win with an under-edged cut through fine leg, and with mere minutes of serviceable light to spare.
2005-06 - Pakistan won 2-0
After the extraordinary highs of the 2005 Ashes, England crashed back to earth in a thoroughly dispiriting fashion in Pakistan, with a brace of defeats - one agonisingly close, the other crushingly complete - that epitomised the sudden dismantling of a fleetingly world-class team. Already lacking Simon Jones through injury, the loss of the captain Michael Vaughan to a knee injury was a further grievous blow, although one that his stand-in Marcus Trescothick seemed to have taken in his stride in leading from the front with a brilliant 193 in the first Test in Multan - sadly the mental toll of that effort would only become apparent in hindsight. In between whiles, Andrew Flintoff bowled supremely to drive England towards victory, only for Shoaib Akhtar and Danish Kaneria - in a classical Pakistani pace/legspin double act - to swipe the match by 22 runs in a breathless finish. Inzamam-ul-Haq's twin hundreds in Faisalabad scotched England's attempts at a fightback, and when Mohammad Yousuf racked up a career-best 223 in the third Test in Lahore, the end was meek and inevitable. Despite the heightened security surrounding the tour, England's first post 9/11, there was little sign at that juncture that they would not be returning for another two decades.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket