Peter Roebuck: England must now become the vampires of the game

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The Independent Online

Vaughan and his men must overcome two obstacles this winter - the laxity that can creep into any side that has fulfilled its first purpose and a Pakistani side strengthened by the absence of Shoaib Akhtar and playing as a team under the most lugubrious of leaders, Inzamam-ul-Haq.

Amidst the celebrations in Trafalgar Square - foreigners could be forgiven for thinking that Nelson himself had made a surprise appearance - the England captain pointed out that his team still stood second in the rankings. Nothing lasting can be achieved without ambition. At present England are not strong enough to dominate for five years, let alone the decade managed by recent West Indian and Australian teams. Further challenges await, including beating Australia on their own patch and winning series on the subcontinent.

Strong teams resemble vampires. Once they have tasted blood they want more of it. England must go to Pakistan as a hungry, disciplined side. Visiting teams must arrive with yearning. Not until the Australians started to enjoy themselves in India did victory become a possibility. Matthew Hayden's career changed after he noticed a group of laughing men every dawn outside his hotel in Mumbai. He discovered that they met every dawn by way of getting the day off to a good start. Another 326 similar clubs existed across the country. Thereafter the Queenslander's success was inevitable.

England must enjoy the trip as well as the challenge. Every tourist ought to read Pundits from Pakistan, Rahul Bhattacharya's brilliant book about India's recent visit. Especially illuminating are passages about Rawalpindi, the garrison town, Multan, and a description of his meeting with the family of Danish Kaneria, the only Hindu member of a side whose vice-captain is a Christian. Pakistan is a proud, complex country led by a government that dares to confront terrorism.

England must arrive in the right frame of mind or else defeat is inevitable. Properly prepared, though, England have the better side. Pakistan have a powerful middle order, a handy stumper, a willing leg-spinner in Kaneria and a pace attack strengthened by the emergence of that stout-hearted customer, Naved-ul-Hasan.

Naved transformed the Pakistani side on its recent tour Down Under. Not until the replacement of that charlatan Shoaib by this willing and skilful seamer did Inzamam's outfit start to function as a team. Naved was admired by his opponents and his contribution had a marked effect on a side previously held together by Kaneria's cheerfulness. Pakistan must support this pair and avoid recalling the remnants of a disgraced side that often merely went through the motions.

Pakistan have a weakness that may prove fatal. Reliable opening batsmen have been as hard to find as coins in the sand. Most play with open-faced bats that slice edges to slip. None have shown the required doggedness. If a productive partnership emerges then the home side has a chance.

Inzamam is Pakistan's greatest asset. Dozy and elusive to outsiders, he is respected by his mostly young players. He is also a superb batsman on his own pitches, and is not to be taken lightly.