England face trial of swing and spin

Hussain's bowlers must adapt to conditions fast if Test side are to prevail in Pakistan after 13-year absence

It is 13 years since England last played a Test series in Pakistan, a period that has caused a whole generation of players to miss out on a unique encounter, on and off the field. In that respect, familiarity will not breed contempt, and the current team are far more likely to experience the mother of all tours instead of, as Ian Botham once commented, a place to send the mother-in-law.

It is 13 years since England last played a Test series in Pakistan, a period that has caused a whole generation of players to miss out on a unique encounter, on and off the field. In that respect, familiarity will not breed contempt, and the current team are far more likely to experience the mother of all tours instead of, as Ian Botham once commented, a place to send the mother-in-law.

Results in Pakistan have been notoriously difficult to produce where England are concerned and will be again. In the 18 Tests played between the two countries in Pakistan, only three have been results: two to Pakistan and one to England, way back in 1962. The other 15 have all been draws and, at the National stadium in Karachi, the venue for the third Test, Pakistan have never lost a Test to anyone.

For Nasser Hussain's men, at least those staying on for the three Tests after the one-day series that begins in eight days' time, the adaptation process on largely unresponsive pitches, must be a quick one if they are not to go down in the first Test. On the two occasions that has happened in the past, Pakistan have twice won the series.

To know special skills are required in this part of the world, you only have to look at recent Pakistan teams. Since the time of Imran Khan in the 80s, when Pakistan stopped playing for draws and started to go for the jugular, the side has been filled with flair rather than stolidity, and invention rather than convention.

Among the bowlers, reverse-swingers have abounded, as have wrist-spinners. The current side has both of these, as well as Saqlain Mushtaq, an off-spinner who, freakishly, can make the ball skip away from right-handers off the pitch.

Confronted with dry, grassless, abrasive and low, skiddy bouncing pitches, Pakistani bowlers have found ways - not always strictly legal - of preventing batsmen from lording it over them. In fact, the discovery of reverse-swing, allegedly by the pace bowler Sarfraz Nawaz in the late 70s, could be seen as a classic example of man triumphing over his environment.

In Darren Gough, Craig White and Dominic Cork, England possess three such reversers. The skiddy nature of the wickets at the Test venues, Lahore, Faisalabad and Karachi, though, means batsmen will be looking to get on the front foot, thereby reducing the effectiveness of the swinging yorker so lethally employed by Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

Andrew Caddick, potentially less suited to these conditions, must use the new ball aggressively and accurately, for the shine will not last long. Although conventional swing and seam bowlers like Caddick have found wickets hard to come by in Pakistan (Dennis Lillee averaged over 100 with the ball in his few Tests there), Shaun Pollock's recent success in South Africa's series victory should bring hope.

The effectiveness of England's spinners, Ashley Giles and Ian Salisbury, is even less certain. Giles, apart from a suspect Achilles tendon, is a finger spinner who does not turn it much except out of the footholes. Salisbury, a wrist-spinner who can spin it, lacks control, especially over players who are well accustomed to his craft.

Unlike most teams, Pakistan tend to defend against the new ball, waiting to attack when, usually after about 30 overs, the ball begins to reverse. England's batsmen must be aware of this and make the most of the early overs, though Moin Khan, the latest captain, may counter by including a conventional swinger or a tearaway quickie like Shoaib Akhtar.

The latest runour is that a shoulder injury will keep Shoaib out of the series, though sightings of another young speedster, Abdul Semi, have been made; England's opening batsmen should beware.

Unlike previous England teams, the biggest threat to the batsmen will come not from the umpiring, but from the spinners. The 13-year hiatus between tours has cost England dear in this department and it would be most unusual, now that match fixing has been brought into the open by the Qayyum report, if all three Test venues do not suit the tweakers.

With Pakistan coming into being as a result of partition and, therefore, after the Raj era, cricket's Victorian codes did not trickle down as they had done elsewhere on the subcontinent. Umpiring, the supposed arbiter of fair play, was long held to be crooked in Pakistan. Even when the MCC toured there in the early 50s, some of the side saw fit to pour a bucket of water on the umpire Idris Baig, for what they saw as cheating.

Justified or not, prejudice is built and is passed down the generations. Indeed it was that, rather than any great wrong-doing at the time, which caused Mike Gatting to see red in Faisalabad in 1987 after the umpire Shakoor Rana, completely within his rights, held up play as the England captain brought up a fielder from square leg.

Gatting's reaction, a lot of effing, blinding and finger-jabbing, was not really directed at Shakoor, whose umpiring had been fine, but at the injustices of the previous Test in Lahore (in which umpire Shakeel Khan had fingered England to defeat).

Yesterday, it was announced that Shakeel has been appointed for England's opening warm-up match against a Governor's XI in Karachi on Friday and will be the TV umpire for the second Test in Faisalabad.

The strained relations makes this tour an important one, even before corruption and match-fixing began to unfurl. With the International Cricket Council due to reveal the recommendations of its Code of Conduct Commission regarding punishments in the Qayyum report, it will be an uneasy time for leading players like Wasim and Mushtaq Ahmed, who were fined in May.

England can win this series, though, with Pakistan more united than in the recent past, they are more likely to win friends. If both can be achieved - and it is an "if" as big as Kipling's Great Game itself - it will go down as one of the most successful tours ever undertaken. A fact that might even impress the mother-in-law.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...