How to beat different strokes in a different world

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The Independent Online

The one-day series between Pakistan and England begins on Tuesday and any similarity between this and what we played at home last summer may be purely coincidental. Then, fortunately for England, the bowlers tended to dominate the games.

The one-day series between Pakistan and England begins on Tuesday and any similarity between this and what we played at home last summer may be purely coincidental. Then, fortunately for England, the bowlers tended to dominate the games.

It will not be the case this week. We had a foretaste of what is to come on Friday night. England scored 323, and that looked to be in some danger when the Governor's XI were 170 for 1 after 28 overs. Eventually, of course, we won in some comfort but out here we are embarking on something rather reminiscent of the old one-day days, when the batsmen batted and batted and batted and the bowlers were simply workhorses.

There is a way to bowl on these pitches, but it is not much connected with taking wickets. There is not much help after you have bowled the initial overs with the new ball. The line is definitely the main challenge. As usual, it is important to try to bowl just at the back of a length. That, at least, is unaltered for me.

But the line here has moved from off-stump with a bit of away movement, to two inches outside the off-stump. The aim is to bowl six balls in the same area, but it is not a foolproof plan. Saleem Elahi, the young Pakistani, scored a blistering century against us on Friday and his trademark shot was flicking it through the leg-side from the off.

Restricting scoring opportunities is the key to the limited-overs animal, and while at home you can run in and try to knock them over, the options on that are somewhat limited here. In these circumstances keeping it tight assumes a new importance. The first 15 overs will be crucial.

Again, in England last summer they were crucial in a different way. There, the batsmen played to survive, the bowlers to thrive. Four years ago, when England played in the World Cup, pinch-hitting was not exactly born, but it reached its maturity. It is about to feature again.

The intense heat here will doubtless be a factor and bowling in the afternoon instead of the evening as England did the other night is an examination yet to come. The objective, after all the hours of fitness training, of coming back to the hotel bathed in sweat, has to be to bowl 10 overs on the trot in some games, maybe seven or eight in the one-dayers and to make the seventh and eighth like the first two. It will be taxing on the body, and though it is your stamina which will get you through, your mental resolve will undoubtedly assist.

The welcome in Karachi has been heartfelt. Whatever has happened between the two countries in the past, we have been made to feel wanted. It is sad that it is so difficult to get out and about. The players have been given security because of worries about what is happening in the Middle East.

But as for the team, we have to disregard the past, the umpiring disputes and the more recent match-fixing allegations. They are from another time. The players have been warned about being approached by anybody who has intentions to rig matches so we know what's what.

The International Cricket Council progressed a little further on the issue this week. I hope they can be stronger in future, perhaps encourage more police involvement rather than leave it to individual governing bodies. So far, we don't appear to have got anywhere. The whole affair has gone on too long. I cannot believe it will affect this series. All the players are desperate after all this time for it to be played in good heart, not sombre mood.

It is good to be playing cricket again after three weeks away with only four matches. I'd prefer tighter itineraries after an initial acclimatisation period, almost abandoning games between internationals.

One of the more pleasant aspects of the opening week was the reception at the Deputy High Commission. It was, thankfully, an informal affair free of speeches and all the more enjoyable for that. The players were able to get round the party and mix.

Having a small drink was welcome as well. I am happy, of course, to observe the culture and practice of the country but it is slightly disconcerting for the English professional cricketer not to have a couple of pints and a chat round the bar of an evening.

The pace of life is different here too. On the way to the Commission function the driver stopped at the bottom of the long drive and got out for a chat for what seemed like an age. Eventually, Graeme Hick took the wheel of the coach and drove up the lane with the driver hanging from the ladder on the back. It was a hurry-up call, no more. The fun starts here.

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