All that anybody can hope is that the Test match here between England and Pakistan starting today avoids the fate of its immediate predecessor. Four years ago, in the final match of a series already won by England, the Test was forfeited by the tourists in confused and acrimonious circumstances.
Andrew Strauss was captain of England in 2006 as he is now. Then, he was in an acting role, a replacement for Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff. He had done an exemplary job but stand-ins are not paid to be ambassadors.
When the match ground to a halt on the fourth afternoon, Strauss did not have the power to act as any more than an intermediary. He could listen a lot and talk only a little.
Having been penalised five penalty runs when the umpires decided they had been tampering with the ball, Pakistan's captain Inzamam-ul-Haq refused to resume the match after tea. All hell broke loose.
"It was one of those things where you think you're watching a train wreck," said Strauss. "It started off with the umpires turning round and looking to see how they were shining the ball, and it was clear they thought there was something untoward going on.
"There was the penalty of the five runs and finally Pakistan not coming out after tea. We were basically spectators in it but we almost knew there was something pretty massive brewing there and it was something we had no ability to control. It put cricket on the front pages for the wrong reasons.
"Had I been official England captain I would have been more involved in speaking to Inzamam or the umpires to say, 'let's look at the bigger context, it's important to get the game back on'."
If Pakistan were plain wrong on that occasion, the umpires, Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove, did not cover themselves in glory either. Going into this match, the third of four, it is the behaviour of the England team that has come under scrutiny.
Although they were easy winners of the second Test match at Edgbaston by nine wickets to go 2-0 up in the series there was an unpleasant aspect to their play on the third afternoon as Pakistan tried to bat themselves back into the match. England, not having the best of things for the first time in the series, were like a six-year-old girl jutting out her bottom lip because she is not being given everything she wants.
Their sense of grievance, of not being accorded what they clearly felt was their right to win the match, culminated in Stuart Broad throwing the ball in the direction of the obstacle-in-chief Zulqarnain Haider. It showed a distinct lack of respect to a worthy adversary.
"There was a period there where we didn't react as well as we could to the circumstances," said Strauss. "But that's fine, we make mistakes, you're never going to get everything right in a Test. There were some lessons learnt, we probably did get a little bit emotional and frustrated and that's not a good place to be in terms of your skills if you're letting emotion take over."
It was wise for Strauss to concede England's behaviour looked awry and it is also as well that Broad, who has too much worryingly previous, has been spoken to. He was lucky to escape with a punishment of half his match fee and the riot act should have been duly read.
England, unchanged, should win their seventh consecutive Test, though Pakistan, with a multitude of amendments caused by injury and form, including the veteran Mohammad Yousuf, may detain them longer.
England A J Strauss (capt), A N Cook, I J L Trott, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, E J G Morgan, M J Prior (wkt), G P Swann, S C J Broad, J M Anderson, S T Finn.
Pakistan Salman Butt (capt), Imran Farhat, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Malik,
Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal (wkt), Moha-mmad Aamer, Wahab Riaz, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Asif
Pitch report Not likely to be a spinner's paradise. Will favour batting, but the skies should encourage seamers.Reuse content