England vs Pakistan: Cheese and Chalk
Posted by Sports Snob on July 17, 2006
As I write this post, Inzamam and Razzaq are batting to save the game for Pakistan. They will, in all likelihood save this game. The match has seen some terrible bowling from both sides and some magnificent batting especially from Mohammed Yousuf (Yousuf Youhana). I have had immense respect for some of the talent that pakistan has produced over the years: Akram, Younis, Inzamam, Saeed Anwar etc. But, this current team doesn’t seem to have the youngsters who are stepping up and performing to potential let alone filling the shoes of some of these players.
Pakistan hasn’t lost a test series in England in a long time, 24 years I think. And during this period, there have been some brilliant individual and team performances.
In 1992, the limeys were mesmerised by the pace at which the Pakistanis sent down their curling, lethal toe-crushers. Akram, the greatest left arm bowler of all time.(?)(probably one of the greatest pace bowlers of the modern era) and Waqar Younis, one of the bowlers who I believe could have done greater things in his career if only health had permitted (if only is such a cruel thing especially in sport). The ball-tampering allegations not withstanding, it was probably the greatest exposition of fast bowling seen in England in the 1990s. Pakistan wins the series 2-1.
The 1996 tour belonged to two men: the wily leg-spinner who suddenly vanished from the international scene, Mustaq Ahmed and one of the best batsmen of our generation, the lazy and classy Inzamam-ul-Haq. Inzie wasn’t the highest runmaker but the skill and determination that he displayed at No. 4, had the Englishmen longing to have a go at the brick wall near the dressing room. The English have never been very good players of quality spin bowling. It was in 1996, that I saw the best of Mushtaq Ahmed. The chubby exterior hid the guile and the tricks up his sleeve. To this day, I havent’t seen a leg spinner turn the googly more. The flight, the length, the turn, the line, the rhythm all in place, Mushtaq was among the top spinners in the world along with Warne and Kumble in 1996. These two were ably supported by Saeed-shocking beard-Anwar and Ijaz-I suprisngly score international runs-Ahmed. Pakistan won the series 2-0, beating Alec Stewart!
The next tour in 2001, saw Inzamam at his very best. Inzie and Graham Thorpe outclassed all other batsmen in both teams. Pakistan’s bowling attack was ageing, and an aged Waqar Younis and the wily, street-smart doosra bowler Saqlain-where has he gone-Mushtaq, carried the Pakistani attack with Akram not at his usual peak. Series drawn 1-1.
Admittedly, the period from ’92 till about 2000, saw England play some of its worst test cricket. But then, this Pakistani bunch played exceptional crciket and there were some outstanding cricketers. The Pakistanis, now seem to be finding it harder to uncover their pace bowling talent with the same unfailing regularity of the past. Sami and Gul are good bowlers but I don’t think they’ll strike terror in the hearts of any opposition. Pakistan might still win the series or manage not to lose it, primarily owing to Inzie and the other classy, stylish middle-order batsman, Mohammed Yousuf. Also, Endland shouldn’t make the mistake of underestimating the skills of Razzaq and Shahid-always 21- Afridi. Considering the strengt of England’s bowling attack for the series, Inzie and Youhana are going to have a whole lot of fun in their final series in England.
But then, what is happening to the younger players in the Pakistani ranks: they are not performing consistently and many are found lacking in skill and temperament. Will there be more Akrams and Inzies or atleast Razzaqs and Ijazs?… for the sake of cricket, I hope so.
PS: I thank Cricinfo profusely for all the help with this post.