Too many stingers in tale of the unexpected

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The Independent Online

Won one, lost one, one to play. And that is barely the half of it. This tour to Pakistan always promised to be one of life's most peculiar and enriching experiences. It is not letting us down in either regard.

Won one, lost one, one to play. And that is barely the half of it. This tour to Pakistan always promised to be one of life's most peculiar and enriching experiences. It is not letting us down in either regard.

One-dayers being what they are, the series could, truly, go either way in Rawalpindi tomorrow. These are two well-matched sides. They have an abundance of quality spin, we have more accomplished seamers. Both sides have high-scoring batsmen who may differ in method.

If those of England are more inexperienced, they showed in that wonderful match in Karachi on Tuesday night, when they chased 305 to win the game, that they are learning quickly. Four players made half-centuries of contrasting nature, all of them set perfectly in the context of the game.

There was not to be a repeat in Lahore when, batting first, we fell 30 or 40 runs short of setting what we would have liked. It was not a pitch conducive to another score of 300, but 240 would have made it a more intriguing contest.

The ball turned in Lahore, as everybody will have noticed. We have to get accustomed to that. We expected it. It may also have been noticed that in four innings so far there has not been a single lbw appeal upheld. Now, as a bowler I don't exactly go along with this interpretation. I was as sure as sure can be that a shout against Inzamam in Karachi was on the right side of worthwhile.

Similarly, I suppose Pakistan may have felt hard done by when they had one turned down against Nasser Hussain. But that is even-handed umpiring. That apart, only one decision has raised the flicker of an eyebrow, when Alec Stewart was adjudged to have hit his first ball from Wasim Akram in Karachi.

None of this has eroded my view that all international games should have neutral umpires. At the moment Tests have one neutral with one provided by the home board, one-dayers have both provided by the home board.

My view is that home players are likely to put home umpires under pressure, to be more insistent in their appeals. At the very least I would eventually like to see two neutral umpires for all Tests - and Pakistan, incidentally, advocated this long ago - and at least one neutral for one-dayers.

That way you would get round the sadness of an English umpire, say, not being able to stand in an international at Lord's or a Pakistani official not being able to adjudicate at Lahore. This is not a question of bias, it is a matter of leaving, if not nothing, then as little as possible to chance.

It was not the umpires in the middle who have been the focus of much of the attention, however. No, that was reserved for the third umpire, the TV umpire, that is, in Lahore.

He was called on to make two adjudications early in England's innings. The first one, a stumping appeal against Stewart he upheld, probably rightly. But it took two minutes of replays - without a directly square-on camera, incidentally. That was absolutely on the limit of what should surely be the permissible time.

But it was soon to be outdone when Marcus Trescothick hit one to mid-wicket, and there was an immediate doubt about whether the ball had been taken cleanly or on the half-volley. A bowler I may be but "if in doubt, not out" has been around a long time and will do for me.

It took four minutes before the green light, for stay, went on. That was too long - it extends the game and it is unnecessary. Television umpires should have all the equipment necessary to aid them. Surely, the longer it goes on the greater the doubt.

Talking of things to get accustomed to or to have expected, dew and flies never fell into that category. But they are here all right. The dew has been around in both matches and is likely to form significantly again tomorrow. It makes bowling second extremely difficult and negates swing. That is why the second two matches have been brought forward by two hours. Apparently, it is a phenomenon which exists only in November and early December because of the heat allied to the recent monsoon season.

And midges, well they hit the big time at Lahore. Going into bowl was like having somebody throw sand in your face. Mark Ealham and I bowled in dark glasses. The Blues Brothers of England. They flew in your mouth, your ears, your eyes. Most unpleasant.

I am back to No 11 in the batting order again. Darren Gough has moved above me because he has more unconventional attacking shots and will hit it to more unlikely areas. Having said which, I was pleased with my sweep for four the other night, and look forward to moving up above the Dazzler again in the Test matches.

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