For a Pakistan fan, there is nothing bigger than a series against India. However, over the past three decades, Test matches involving Pakistan and England have continuously provided for exciting viewing and ample drama.
From the time Ian Botham remarked, “Pakistan is a place to send your mother in law on a one-way ticket”, every single Test series between the two nations has been a great exhibition of cricket on the field. And some off it too.
The series in 1992 was magical due to Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Waqar was returning from an injury which had put him out of the World Cup months earlier and the duo combined to produce some of the best fast bowling ever witnessed in Test cricket.
The two Ws continued to torment England in 1996 also but this series win was built upon the performances of Pakistan’s batsmen, particularly Inzamam Ul Haq and Saeed Anwar who were at the peak of their powers.
In 2005, when England toured Pakistan, in Michael Vaughan’s own words “Shoaib Akhtar was the difference between the two sides.” If England had thought they were done with Wasim and Waqar, Pakistan came out with Shoaib who not only bowled them over with sheer pace but also deceived them with guile. Shoaib's magical slower deliveries were the biggest talking point of that series.
The less we think of Pakistan's 2010 tour to England the better. In a way, Pakistan fans were fortunate enough that a return series took place just two years later. The clean sweep of then number 1 England, provided some sort of relief from the spot-fixing scandal as Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman in tandem destroyed England on slow UAE pitches and ended a couple of careers in the process.
England’s assistant coach, Paul Farbrace, recently said they feel the series against Pakistan is tougher than the Ashes. It maybe because prior to their 3-0 loss to Pakistan in 2012, they were coming off wins against Australia (3-1), Sri Lanka (1-0), and India (4-0).
Pakistan has featured in some very intriguing Test encounters against England but some wins will remain etched in memory forever.
After playing out a draw in the first Test at Birmingham, Pakistan and England battled at the home of cricket, Lord’s. England won the toss and chose to bat. It took Pakistan two sessions and a bit to bowl them out for 255 with Waqar picking up five wickets and Wasim chipping in with two.
Pakistan’s batsmen, in response, got good starts but no one carried on for a big score. However, they still managed a lead of 38 runs. In the second innings, England folded even quicker after posting only 175. This time Wasim did the damage with four wickets and Waqar chipped in with two.
Chasing a target of 138, it was expected to be a cakewalk for Pakistan. But with them its always a little bit more entertaining.
Chris Lewis became unplayable overnight and Rameez Raja, Asif Mujtaba, and Javed Miandad all went back to the pavilion without troubling the scorers; Pakistan were 18-3. Soon legspinner Ian Salisbury also transformed in Abdul Qadir and Pakistan fell into further trouble at 68-6, which gradually became 95-8.
With 43 runs still required to win, Waqar joined his fast bowling partner Wasim at the crease. Wasim had already been there since the fall of the 5th wicket. No one ever could have imagined that the two who had been spearheading Pakistan’s bowling efforts would now be required to do the same with the bat.
Wasim and Waqar forged a great unbeaten partnership to take Pakistan to a memorable 2 wicket victory. They played sensibly, kept the scoreboard ticking, and hit the loose balls away. Wasim ended unbeaten on 45, while Waqar remained unbeaten on 20. It was a historic partnership that was never broken. They did with the ball, and they also did it with the bat. Their efforts won them a shared 'man of the series award'.
It was a series during which Wasim and Waqar had completely schooled England with their inswinging yorkers that became a phenomenon after 1992.
It was Lord’s all over again four years later, when Pakistan created magic with the ball once again to go one up in the series. Batting first, Pakistan posted 340 with Inzamam-ul-Haq playing a sublime innings of 148. To date, that remains one of my favorite Inzi innings.
In response, England posted 285 with Waqar once again the chief destroyer, taking four wickets. In the second innings, the England bowlers were put to the sword by Saeed Anwar (88), Ijaz (76), and once again Inzamam (70) as Pakistan declared on 352-5 and set England an improbable target of 408.
Unlikely to chase that down, England began a subdued attempt at saving the game and closed day 4 on 70 odd for the loss of one wicket with their stalwarts of the 90s, Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart at the crease. Both of them continued in the same fashion the next morning and took England to 170 without giving away a wicket.
It was not until the third session that Pakistan sniffed a chance. Mushtaq Ahmed, who was always a great foil to Wasim and Waqar, broke the partnership and snared both Atherton and Stewart in the space of three runs. Mushtaq continued to deceive the England batsmen during the final afternoon of the Test and soon England were bowled out for 243, giving Pakistan yet another memorable win at Lord’s.
Waqar was once again in the wickets with a four-wicket haul, but this time it was Mushtaq who was England’s tormentor with 5-57.
Old Trafford, 2001
In a rare occurrence in a Test series against England, Pakistan were 1-0 down going into the second and final Test at Old Trafford. It was a matter of pride for Waqar who definitely did not want to be the first Pakistan captain to lose a Test series in England for 20 years. Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, and Wasim Akram had all led Pakistan to famous series wins over England on their previous three tours.
Pakistan started this match with purpose. Inzamam stroked yet another magical hundred in England and posted 114, helping Pakistan to a total of 403. Michael Vaughan and Graham Thorpe responded with centuries for England, however, the rest of the batsmen could not do much as England conceded a 46-run lead. Inzamam was in great form as always and followed up his century with an innings of 85. Pakistan posted 323 in their second innings, giving England a target of 370 runs with two sessions and a day to go.
Atherton, once again, and Marcus Trescothick began yet another subdued response that showed that England was intent on saving the game and winning their first series against Pakistan at home in 20 years. England closed day four on 85 without losing a wicket. The next morning the two continued to blunt Pakistan’s attach and took the score to 146 when Waqar finally struck and clean bowled Atherton.
That was the breakthrough Pakistan were looking for, but it wasn’t till the final session once again that Pakistan snatched victory from a game that at one stage was meandering towards a draw. Waqar with three wickets, and the other Saqlain Mushtaq with four wickets ran through England, wrapping them up for 261.
Waqar ensured that Pakistan’s unbeaten series run in England remained intact under his leadership as well.
It was the first Test of the series, and Pakistan, after deciding to bat first on a wonderful batting wicket, could only post 274. Only Salman Butt and Inzamam posted fifties as Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison, fresh of their historic Ashes success, proved too good for the rest. In response, England posted 418 taking a massive 144 run lead. Pakistan’s second innings was slightly better, with Butt and Inzamam once again doing the bulk of the scoring. They managed 341 giving England an easy target of 198 with an entire day left.
Pakistan is known to create magic on final days of Test cricket and they did not disappoint here either.
There was no Wasim, no Waqar, neither of the Mushtaqs. So who could Pakistan bank on this time to give them a win from the jaws of defeat?
Shoaib Akhtar and Danish Kaneria rose to the occasion and ensured that not a single England batsmen felt settled at the crease. Before England even knew what hit them, they had folded for 175 giving Pakistan a historic 22-run win on the back of some sheer Shoaib pace and Kaneria guile.
Abu Dhabi 2012
With Pakistan one up in the three-match series, it seemed like England would level the series in Abu Dhabi and set it all up for a decider. England had taken a 70-run lead in the first innings and then bowled Pakistan out for 214 to give themselves a meagre target of 145 with five sessions still left in the game. Well, Pakistan needed only one of those to orchestrate a historic win.
Defend such a low total in Tests may not be regular occurrence in Tests these days , so it has to be a special effort when it is pulled off.
England batsmen had no clue what hit them as Abdul Rehman and Saeed Ajmal repeatedly broke through their defenses and decimated England for 72 in 36 overs.
For England fans it must have been torture to see their batsmen fall like nine pins, but for Pakistan fans and neutrals it was a not so unfamiliar sight as Rehman and Ajmal created magic at the same time.
That series in the UAE in 2012 will remain the most memorable Test series wins under Misbah-ul-Haq's captaincy.
UAE has become a fortress for Pakistan under Misbah and with the upcoming series against England likely to be his last, here’s hoping that Pakistan gives us another memorable series win and some more drama.
Umair Qazi is the founder of wellpitched.com, co-founder of the popular facebook group 'Boys in Green', and he tweets @wellpitched