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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering