The Best I've Watched
A kind of frenzy
When Pakistan switched themselves on and turned, all guns blazing, on England
Almost nobody was in the stadium in Multan, and this during the winter, and tickets were free. England were in town and this was the first full Test series I was covering as a Cricinfo employee.
England had dominated much of the Test and they needed 174 to win on the last day with nine wickets in hand. Recent conquerors of Australia and participants in the greatest series ever, the world's best allrounder and best pace attack, the most exciting new batsman in the game - not much should've gone wrong.
There was, over the ground and the city, that wintry haze of southern Punjab, hiding within it a chill and dust.
It was Waqar Younis' birthday, or at least his official one, which said that he had just turned 34. That meant he'd retired at 32. He'd played first for Multan, born nearby in Vehari. Something, we should've known, was up.
I'd never seen first-hand the kind of collapse Waqar and Wasim Akram so often instigated. And it is something else altogether, live, to watch Pakistan do this kind of thing. A kind of frenzy grips everyone, spectators and players, and it moves you inside. Suddenly Pakistan channel into one session, one passage of play, everything, every ounce of energy and thought.
Shoaib Akhtar became swifter than he had been, crashing into Ashley Giles' stumps at 94mph. Danish Kaneria, for a session, became Warne, bowling Shaun Udal from round the wicket with a googly that turned in as much as a Murali offbreak. Fielding became sharper, catches were held, and controlling the uncontrollable was Inzamam-ul-Haq, every inch the man of the house in his hometown. Kaneria was installed at one end and three fast bowlers rotated at the other. In just over 30 overs England went from 64 for 1 to 175 all out.
Bob Woolmer was around as coach and was building some trust with Inzi. Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan were just about to enter their golden phases. Pakistan was buzzing. A year later Darrell Hair and The Oval happened. Four years after that I watched Pakistan implode in a chase in Sydney and again something inside me shook.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo. This article was first published in the Wisden Cricketer magazine