FAISALABAD, Jan 20: Iqbal Stadium has hosted a total of 23 Tests on this ground which is laden with records of all sorts and an unwanted but much-publicised controversy.

Over the years since the first Test was played here in October 1978, the Faisalabad public has seen mainly high-scoring draws, while also witnessing the lowest total at this venue when West Indies were bundled out for 53 in 1986-87.

It is appropriate that Pakistan play their 24th Test against India from Saturday since these great rivals faced each other in the historic 1978-79 series for the first time in 18 years.

Famously known as the Manchester of Pakistan because of it being the nucleus of the textile industry in the area, Faisalabad has its share of a major cricketing controversy.

In the second Test of the 1987-88 series an entire day’s play was held up after umpire late Shakoor Rana and England captain Mike Gatting were embroiled in a finger and tongue-wagging scuffle over a minor field adjustment issue.

The match resumed only after Gatting tendered an unconditional apology to the aggrieved umpire.

The only Test match ever to be abandoned without a ball being bowled because dense fog was destined to be played here in December 1998 between Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Pakistan’s track record in Faisalabad is marginally superior since they had won six Tests and had finished losers five times. As many as 12 matches were drawn.

The current Indian team will be boosted by the fact that Pakistan have lost three of the last four Tests to provide conclusive results.

That first-ever Test at Iqbal Stadium set the tone for a high-scoring draw with Zaheer Abbas (176 and 96), Javed Miandad (154 not out) and Gundappa Viswanath (145) being the principal batting stars.

The highest total score here was recorded in 1984-85 when Pakistan amassed 674 for six against India.

Qasim Umar excelled with 210 and Mudassar Nazar making 199.

The Kenyan-born Qasim also made 206 against Sri Lanka here in 1985-86.

In the same game, Miandad struck an undefeated 203 while sharing the highest partnership — 397 for the third wicket with Qasim — at the Iqbal Stadium.

Former Sri Lankan skipper Sanath Jayasuriya has the distinction of being the highest individual scorer in a Faisalabad Test with 253 last season.

Before Jayasuriya’s match-winning innings, Greg Chappell, the current India coach, held the personal milestone with 235 in the dull draw of the 1979-80 series.

The only other double century on this ground was scored by Taslim Arif in that same Test against Australia almost 26 years ago when the wicket-keeper/batsman hit an unbeaten 210.

Dennis Lillee, the great Australian fast bowler who went wicketless in the same Test, commented then whenever he dies he should be buried beneath the match pitch.

So far, 47 centuries have been scored on the normally batting-friendly pitches.

In sharp contrast, bowlers have achieved five or more wickets only 25 times.

The best innings figures were achieved by New Zealand seamer Chris Pringle who captured seven for 52 on an unexpected green-top in 1990-91.

In that same match Waqar Younis grabbed a Faisalabad record 12 for 130 while Pringle finished with 11 for 152.

Apart from Waqar and Pringle, only Imran Khan, Abdul Qadir and Wasim Akram had managed to bag a 10-wicket haul here.

It was Imran who decimated the Indian batting with 11 for 1980 to seal a comfortable Pakistan win in 1982-83.

Imran also helped himself to a century in the same match. Miandad has the honour of being the only man to score 1,000 or more Test runs (1068 in 15 matches) in Faisalabad while among current players, Inzamam has made 575 in six Tests chiefly because of his century in each innings (109 and 100 not out) against England last November.

On the bowling front, leg-spinner Abdul Qadir (42 wickets in 10 Tests) and Wasim Akram (41 in nine) have been the leading wicket-takers in Faisalabad.

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