There is no point in believing anything other than that the fast-bowling attack you will shortly confront is probably the most potent in the world. But this does not overwhelm you. This is the challenge, this is what you play Test cricket for. These fellows are there to be combated.
The Pakistan last-wicket pair hang round for an invaluable 50 extra runs. This is annoying in every way. It holds up the team, and it delays the moment when I can get to the crease. We get them eventually. Ten minutes now between innings.
The preparatory work has all been done. The captain, Mike Atherton, and I have talked about how we shall play, what we can expect. This is a time to focus on that. I am not worried but I am quiet. I'm not prancing round the dressing-room offering high fives.
The time comes. Atherton and I mutually acknowledge the moment. "Ready." I have played four Tests, opened with him in them all and invariably taken first ball. I like to be in the game immediately. Athers is relaxed about this.
Well, here we are: the left-arm bowler of great wisdom and experience with wonderful variation and the right-arm fast bowler with the legendary swinging yorker. We know what they can do. They are not, however, the irresistible force. I clip the first ball for two. You have to be ready.
Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram are different from Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. The West Indian pair, who were the first I faced in Test cricket, thrive on hitting the pitch. Without bounce some of their sting goes. But the Pakistani duo have that swing. Maybe it gives them the edge.
I am not thinking about this comparison. We have a total of 340 to get within sight of. My feet are moving well. I feel fluent, maybe as fluent as I have done so far for England. All is smooth. The captain is out early, leg before wicket. Alec Stewart and I put together a partnership. Then three wickets fall quickly. I am one of them, also leg before.
It is deeply disappointing to be out. My score says 49 but I know I hit a ball which flew through slip. We ran two which were signalled leg byes.
I mention it to David Lloyd, the coach. He makes enquiries and I am awarded the runs. My second half-century for England. But I wanted so much to go on. And don't ask me what I would have done had the slip caught the edged shot in question.
We knew that this series would be tough. Pakistan are well balanced. There is not the slightest trace of animosity in the middle. It is hard, sure, and nobody is inviting anybody round for tea but there only a little bit of talking. The leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmed and I have a bit of fun - a meaningful glance here, a stare there - but this is enjoyable.
My early dismissal, again leg before, in the second innings briefly distresses me. But we can save the match. We look like doing so. And then, collapse. We are disconsolate. We should have got a draw.
England will be back at Headingley. A seaming wicket and it will be 1- 1 with everything to play for at the Oval.Reuse content