England & Their Poor Run of Form:
The victory was so essential for Nasser Hussain & his troops because of so many off-field dramas were taking place prior to that. England’s last trip to the sub-continent had been in the early cooler months of 1993; they were whitewashed to India in the test series with a one-off loss to Sri Lanka later on. The terrible results of English team gave birth to a debate during a special general meeting of MCC with no English selector grew interest on their own team.
The party at one point found the members going down with stomach problems. The Indian Airline even went on strike to complicate England’s travelling. Their previous visit to Pakistan hadn’t helped their cause either with the heavy defeats or the famous altercation between England former leader Mike Gatting and umpire Shakoor Rana. (we will talk about the incident in a separate post)
“Other people’s expectations weren’t great. We were reasonably confident.” Recalls Graham Thorpe who was the highest scorer of England’s most essential innings. Definitely, they were enjoying the service of their coach Duncan Fletcher but still you were up against the Pakistan side with the swing of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and a magical man to spin the ball in Saqlain Mushtaq, who was as lethal as Muttiah Murlitharan.
An Intense Practice Session:
If you address it the toughest bowling lineup, then tell you what; this Pakistan team was receiving jobs from some top batsmen-Saeed Anwar, Mohammad Yousuf, Inzamam-ul-Haq and many more to follow and that too in their prime forms. So, England seriously required a plan and the tough preparations replicated all the issues of the main event. “The games themselves were a lot more comfortable than our practice sessions.” Expressed Thorpe. The Englishmen were forced to bear with spin without pads; hard mentality with best possible technique to face reverse swing.
After two back to back dull boring test matches in Lahore and Faisalabad, the war resumed in National Stadium, Karachi. Both initial games saw truck-loaded runs being scored in the first innings as it’s the case in the pitches of Sub-continent; But this England side had surely rang a bell that they weren’t leaving the ground too easily.
Pakistan winning the toss elected to bat and posted 405 on the board thanks to superb centuries from Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam. England absorbed the pressure and replied with 388. It wasn’t the score but how English batsmen approached that day. Atherton had scored 125 in 430 balls; skipper Nasser Hussain had faced 209 deliveries for his 50 with the tailenders playing 50 to 80 balls. The toil of bowling for almost 2days were reflecting mentally & physically on Pakistan boys.
England gave their All:
The destruction began and Pakistan bundled out for just 158 in their nest innings giving England a target of 176. The problem was not about how many runs but how many times left in the game. As an Indian, I can tell you, after 4:30pm in the sub-continents, the atmosphere seemed to be like an evening. “We could really go for it with the bat because if we did get into trouble, we’d always have the option to claim bad light and walk of with a draw.” Explained Nasser Hussain about his decision of changing batting orders.
Daylight was transforming into twilight as Atherton and Trescothick made their way to the crease. After a sound run of play, both of them perished. Downfall of Alex Stewart, 5 of 16, was making it uncomfortable for the England lineup to chase their dream. Proactiveness by Thorpe and Hick swept away all the thoughts of defeats from the three Lions.
Waqar Younis’s reverse swing saw the later losing his stumps almost at the end of the day or probably during the early evening. And the drama began, “Hussain sprinted to the crease and rotated strike… I think it was Hussain… anyway it was a man in Cricket whites possibly holding a bat.” The words of Graham Thorpe could nicely describe the atmosphere of the ground.
It was not the tactics of how to get the batsman out but was how to convince the umpire to make the job easy. All the fielders started to run in the wrong directions of the field, the drinks were coming closely and leader Moin Khan left no plan unapplied. But Lord appeared before the English team in the figure of umpire Steve Bucknor.
The Old School Umpiring:
“Pakistan got into delaying tactics… as any team would… but umpire Steve Bucknor was saying ‘I know what you’re up to, but we are staying out there.’” Said David Lloyd, who was on air in the iconic game.
It wouldn’t be possible in these days with so many laws have arrived about the safety of players, but it was “Real Old School Umpiring” from the Jamaican. The drama was on untill Hussain and Thorpe took England to the glory that witnessed a break to Pakistan’s 35-game unbeaten streak at the ground. “For us it was just a boring test series, but you can imagine it made good viewing at home, here in
As all the England players huddled in great celebrations singing their tour song, “Who let the Dogs out ?!” as David Gower’s commentary summed it up beautifully. “To be fair, many of the people in the ground will be unbale to say they saw it… but England have won.”