It was sledging. No more than that

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The Independent Online

A few overs from the close of play on the third day of England's final match before the First Test, I had personal experience of how hard it might be this winter, of how frustrating tours can be.

A few overs from the close of play on the third day of England's final match before the First Test, I had personal experience of how hard it might be this winter, of how frustrating tours can be.

It was the start of my second spell and I was bowling to the left-hander Akhtar Sarfraz. To my eyes and ears he seemed to get a routine edge to the wicketkeeper. It looked so routine, so obvious that the appeal was muted. I galloped down to thank Alec Stewart and then realised that not only was the batsman not walking, he was not being given out.

It prompted me to have words with the batsman to the effect that he might have cared to walk. Rather like the Australians are prone to call us cheating Pommie bastards. If it was sledging, it did not go beyond the bounds of acceptable behaviour.

On the way back to my mark, I mentioned to the umpire that he might have beenincorrect, and in the heat of the moment might also have suggested I had been happier in places other than Pakistan. It happens, I am not proud, I know you have to expect calls like this, anywhere, any time. But they don't get easier to bear, anywhere, any time. You just have to accept the decision. As I had to accept putting my version of events to the match referee yesterday morning. It was a misunderstanding more than anything else. All cleared up now.

I like Pakistan, we have been made welcome here, the hospitality has been generous. They have a different culture, but then England's must be strange to them. It was just that this had been one of those matches where little things had not gone our way and this one irked. Maybe more than it should have done, maybe not.

What it also did, incidentally, was to provoke me into bowling my best spell of the tour. I was half a yard quicker than I had been, I was getting some bounce, the batsmen got the general hurry-up. The ball was coming out, the niggle I had been feeling in my back disappeared. That was important. Niggling pains niggle at you.

I had also been pretty pleased with the way I used the new ball. The one that got the opener Imran Farhat, who looks as though he can play, was a good delivery. The edge, by the way, was regulation.

Play finished at 4.30. It gets dark early here. The umpires had many discussions about the light. Both sides lost wickets towards the end of play in this match. Only a thought, but light meters may help.

Nobody said this trip was going to be plain sailing, and actually from what I can remember everybody said it wasn't. But I don't think whatever happened here will have any bearing on the Test series. That won't be conducted in eternally tranquil seas either, but it is important to state firmly that we have no concerns about the umpiring.

While the Pakistani officials will be new to us, they are on the international panel and the two neutrals are Darrell Hair of Australia and Steve Bucknor of West Indies, in their different ways known for their calmness and fairness.

Pakistan start as favourites. They are at home, they have individuals of abundant gifts, batsmen with strokes to die for, bowlers of top-quality seam and spin. But they will not underrate England. Nor should they. We have a seam attack which has proved a point or two, remember, and both the spinners, Ashley Giles and Ian Salisbury, have settled pretty well. Giles has been impressive with his good line.

Much has been made of spin and while we don't know what the pitch will be like at Lahore on Wednesday it will not discourage the turning ball. In Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed, Pakistan have two men who can pose difficulties for any batsmen. England's batsmen, their plans worked out, have a point to make.

It is unlikely to be high-scoring, and lower-order runs will be important. Tens, twelves, fifteens, may be significant. England's lower order know that. I have batted at No 8 for England, I will probably bat at No 10 now. There is an adage that you bat to your position. It is not an adage for nothing: there is an element of truth. The secret, for me, will be to bat at No 10 like I have done at No 8.

We went up the Khyber Pass earlier in the week. You could only appreciate the experience and yet for me it was reminiscent of New Zealand. The surroundings were slightly more barren but the range of hills, the crops of rock and the general atmosphere of being in a strange world were similar to being down in the South Island.

We went round a frenetic bazaar where goods, some of them smuggled allegedly, were being sold. That wasn't like South Island. The Khyber Pass was a pleasant day, a memory to cherish. But it was a diversion. The real business of our journey begins on Wednesday.