Tonight's gonna be a good night: England celebrate their first Test series win in Pakistan since 1961
Tonight's gonna be a good night: England celebrate their first Test series win in Pakistan since 1961
Twenty years on, Nasser Hussain, Mike Atherton, Graham Thorpe, Mohammad Yousuf and Waqar Younis look back at a famous England win
The year 2000 bore witness to green shoots of promise for England under the captain-coach combo of Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher. After beating West Indies in a Test series for the first time in 31 years, they set off for a winter on the subcontinent in confident mood.
England had not toured Pakistan since 1987-88, a fractious encounter best remembered for the Mike Gatting-Shakoor Rana affair, but they acquitted themselves well. The first two Tests were drawn. Going into the final match, in Karachi, a ground where Pakistan had never lost a Test, the series remained in the balance.
Graham Thorpe, England batsman: A few of us had been there before. There may have been some negativity from former England teams, but I have to say our attitude was quite different. I'd probably been three times, so I'd seen parts of Pakistan that were enjoyable. Local people would look after you. They loved their cricket. We'd played against Waqar [Younis], Wasim [Akram], Saqlain [Mushtaq], Mushy [Mushtaq Ahmed], Azhar [Mahmood] - all these guys that had played in county cricket. They wanted us to enjoy their country, so they would invite us to things, and we got on off the field. But on the pitch it was totally different. They are battlers, they are street fighters and they want to win, and we knew we had to match that fight.
Nasser Hussain, England captain: It wasn't a particularly spectacular series. It was played on some pretty turgid surfaces and it wasn't very watchable at times. It was very batsman-friendly and very slow. But I realised that if we stayed in the series for as long as possible - that was always my plan in that part of the world - sometimes the pressure shifts on the opposition. So that was my message to the boys.
"We were struggling to get [Mohammad] Yousuf out full stop in that period. He just batted and batted and batted. He had a great technique, great tempo"
England's approach was evident from the outset as they batted for almost 200 overs after winning the toss in Lahore, Thorpe scoring a hundred that featured just one boundary. Thorpe top-scored for the tourists again in Faisalabad, where Ashley Giles, England's left-arm spinner playing only his third Test, claimed a maiden five-wicket haul.
Thorpe: We were quite content to not get too far behind in the game, not try and do something we didn't feel we were capable of doing. The Lahore Test fizzled out into a draw based on us posting a good first-innings score. Similar issue in Faisalabad, although both the games were curtailed by light. But even there, in the second innings we lost a few wickets and you could quickly see in that part of the world that things could drift along, and all of a sudden, if someone had a nightmare, the game could change in 30-40 overs.
In Karachi, it was England's turn to be put into the field and watch the runs rack up. Pakistan ended the first day on 292 for 3 as Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana (as Mohammad Yousuf was known back then) notched centuries. Yousuf had made scores of 124 and 77 in the first two Tests, and he and Inzamam appeared to be taking the game away from England at an early stage in the third with their stand of 259.
In his first series against England, Mohammad Yousuf averaged 85.5. Overall, in 24 innings against England, he made 1499 runs, including four hundreds and two doubles
Tom Shaw / © Getty Images
In his first series against England, Mohammad Yousuf averaged 85.5. Overall, in 24 innings against England, he made 1499 runs, including four hundreds and two doubles Tom Shaw / © Getty Images
Hussain: We were struggling to get out Yousuf full stop in that period. We weren't the only ones, but we were having so many meetings about him. We knew he was a great player but he just batted and batted and batted. He had a great technique, great tempo. It wasn't until that World Cup game [in 2003] that Duncan Fletcher said to Jimmy [Anderson]: bowl a very full, swinging delivery to him. We had every other plan for him, but none of them worked.
Mohammad Yousuf, Pakistan batsman: I had a good record against England, and it was a good series for me. In Karachi, it didn't really play slow [in the first innings] - the ball was skidding on and I had to fight to score a hundred, as did Inzi. We batted together for most of the first day and our intent had always been to make every run count. Then Waqar took four [wickets] in England's first innings. All this should have been enough for us to win, but...
Thorpe: You're thinking, "If we bat well first innings, we'll get a draw." You're thinking 500-600. It was a flat pitch, and I thought it remained that way throughout the game. We got a bit of reverse swing, which is something you're always looking to get over there if you look after the ball well. Generally, it will tail at some stage. And Gilo bowled excellently as well. He could do a good holding role in the first innings, but if he got an opportunity on turning tracks, he often came up trumps.
Giles claimed four wickets on the second morning as Pakistan slipped from 323 for 3 to 405 all out - a position of strength, but not the sort of impregnable total that had looked possible. At that point, England's only ambition was to try and get something close to parity, and they were led in their efforts by a marathon effort from opener Mike Atherton.
"We never thought about losing the game after [such a big] first-innings total, and it was a completely unexpected twist"
Hussain: Athers was in great nick in that series. When Ath gets on a roll like that…
Mike Atherton, England batsman: I was playing pretty well. I got some runs in the first two Tests, and the pitches were flat, they were slow; they spun a bit but not very much. It was my only Test tour to Pakistan and I just remember thinking, "God, I wish I'd batted on these pitches all my life." They were complete roads, really. But it was quite hard work to score quickly, and of course, they got a lot of runs in the first innings. So when you go out to bat, you're not really thinking about winning the game at that point, just getting up to them and see what happens.
Hussain: Even though the pitches were flat, once it starts reversing, they become slight favourites - they had Wasim and Waqar, two of the great reverse-swing bowlers of all time - so the pitch gets taken out of the equation. Sometimes people presume, "Oh they were flat pitches", but against that attack, to get the runs he got just shows what a high-class player he was.
Atherton batted for almost ten hours - second only to the Bullring for his longest Test innings - to score 125 from 430 balls, while Hussain ground out a 209-ball 51 to help England post 388. Hussain's half-century was his first in 18 innings and 11 Tests.
Mike Atherton's 125 took over seven hours, and some in the England media believed it might cost the side the game
Tom Shaw / © Getty Images
Mike Atherton's 125 took over seven hours, and some in the England media believed it might cost the side the game Tom Shaw / © Getty Images
Atherton: I didn't go out to bat slowly. I just went out and played the situation. In the second innings, obviously it was a very different situation. I don't get when people say "that's how I play", or have some kind of predetermined game plan. Play the conditions, play the bowlers, play the match situation and try to adapt.
Hussain: I was all over the place at that time with my batting. I'd got a couple of shocking decisions in previous games. It was that classic period where the captaincy lifts you, but if you look at every England captain, there comes a period where the captaincy just gets on your shoulders and affects your game a little bit.
I was trying to grind out a score, because that's where I was with my game - sort of mentally scrambled and just trying to contribute to the team. Keith Fletcher said to me: "Captaincy's a lot easier when you're getting runs. Your contribution to the team as a player is vital." So that was very wearing on my mind.
England's reply spanned 179.1 overs and by now the game was well into the fourth day. Batting again with a lead of 17, Pakistan reached the close seemingly secure on 71 for 3. But after 14 days of hard-fought Test cricket, the tourists sensed that this could be their moment.
Thorpe: When we came off the pitch on the fourth evening, we thought, "We've got a small chance here if in the morning session we can stifle them and take wickets." And that's exactly how it played out. They weren't sure whether to play their shots or chew up time, and they got stuck in the middle. I remember Ash bowled really well, we had an in-out field, blokes protecting the boundary and three-four men in around the bat for the opportunities. And the pitch did start to spin more on day five if you got the ball in the right area.
"It was my only Test tour to Pakistan, and I just remember thinking, 'God, I wish I'd batted on these pitches all my life'
Hussain: I was constantly saying, as long as we don't lose control of the situation, as long as they are just 80 ahead and three down, if we suddenly have a burst and get two or three wickets, you know the old cliché: add two wickets to the score and they're suddenly 80 for 5 and they're thinking, "Oh my god, we worked hard for three Tests. Are we gonna lose this one?" The psychology and the pressure really shifts on the opposition and we've got nothing to lose. If they suddenly smash it and end up 200 for 3, they're not going to declare.
On the final day, Pakistan started steadily enough, reaching 128 for 4 before Yousuf fell to Craig White for his first sub-50 score of the series. England continued to chip away through the morning and early afternoon until Pakistan were dismissed for 158, Giles and Darren Gough sharing six wickets between them.
Yousuf: You can say we played loose in the second innings. Maybe we relaxed, knowing that with only a day left, both teams had an innings to play. Normally in this scenario the game ends in a draw. I think it was a lesson for us to never get complacent, never give up at any moment, and fight until it's over. We lost too many wickets in quick intervals, giving them a chance.
The slow-motion collapse left England needing to score 176 in 44 overs to win, and Hussain's thoughts turned to changing the batting order around…
Hussain: I remember running off and looking at the equation and thinking, well, we can't have Ath grind out a hundred off 400 deliveries. I'm thinking about our batting line-up - get the big guns up the order, me and Ath will slide down. So I went up to Ath and he could see what was coming, and before I even started my sentence, he just told me where to go. He said: "I'm opening the batting, I've got the most runs for you this series, I'm batting as well as anyone, I'm going in." I just stopped mid-track and went, "Okay, good point well made, Ath, you open and then we'll work it out from there."
Waqar Younis' four-for gave Pakistan a slim 17-run lead in the first innings
© Getty Images
Waqar Younis' four-for gave Pakistan a slim 17-run lead in the first innings © Getty Images
Atherton: I don't ever remember [Hussain] saying, "We're going to change the order." Because if he'd decided to do that, he'd have done it. I just remember him perhaps raising the question as to whether the order should be changed, and obviously I said I didn't think it should be…
Atherton backed up his point by hitting five fours in 26 off 33 as England got off to a solid start. When he was dismissed, Alec Stewart was pushed up in place of the regular No. 3, Hussain.
Thorpe: Nasser said to me, we'll give it a crack at the top and we'll hold you back - if it goes tits up, we've got a bit of stability and we can almost play out for the draw. So Stewie went three and I remember Hickie [Graeme Hick] or Nasser was lined up to go four. When Athers was out, I didn't have my pads on, but I said to Fletch: "We can win this but let me go out." And he looked at Nass and said, "If he wants to go, let him go." Generally, I wasn't that type of player. If someone said this is what we want you to do, I'd just do it. But I was playing quite well. I felt like I had a good handle on the situation with their spinners and I thought we could disrupt them.
Despite a stumble that left them 65 for 3, the chase was on track as Thorpe and Hick came together in a vital stand. Pakistan's captain, Moin Khan, also found his options limited. Akram had pulled out on the morning of the Test with a back problem and Waqar was included for the first time in the series, while legspinner Danish Kaneria was playing in only his second Test.
Thorpe: We were comfortably picking up four runs an over. They had a field which was spread, strangely. I thought if they'd put more pressure on us, and kept the field up, they may have got us playing more high-risk shots. I felt all I had to do was manoeuvre the ball around and see how far I could take it down.
"Nass came out and he goes: 'Mate, we're not getting five overs. I can barely see the bloody ball. You need to finish this as quick as we can'"
Waqar Younis, Pakistan bowler: To be honest, we never thought about losing the game after [such a big] first-innings total, and it was a completely unexpected twist. Even in the second innings, we thought after getting a few wickets upfront we can easily put pressure on and squeeze them. I think we trusted our spinners too much on a sluggish pitch and it was like axing our own foot. But Thorpe played extremely well and he was the one big difference.
England were on course, but there was one factor that was going to be out of their hands…
Hussain: In the back of your mind you know you're going to be working against time and light. But you're always going to have that in your favour, in that if suddenly the wheels come off and you're seven down, you can say, "We'll take the light, please." So we had nothing to lose really and so much to win - it would be a historic win.
Atherton: I just remember a bit of nervousness about the light. There was maybe a point where Hickie got out, where there might have been a bit of nervousness about a collapse. In that situation, I thought it was always: either we were going to win or it would be a draw.
Thorpe: Normally we were off an hour before, once the sun had gone behind the stadium. Once you're out there, your eyes adjust - but I know it was as dark as I'd ever played in a Test match in my whole life. Never seen anything like it, really. I still felt I could pick up the ball quite comfortably, but you'd see some of the fielders - when I hit one over to extra cover, Inzi didn't move. Whether he was playing a game or not, I don't know. But he probably didn't see it.
Umpire Steve Bucknor had no time for Pakistan's time-wasting tactics even though the light was deteriorating to a point where the batsmen were struggling a bit
Laurence Griffiths / © Getty Images
Umpire Steve Bucknor had no time for Pakistan's time-wasting tactics even though the light was deteriorating to a point where the batsmen were struggling a bit Laurence Griffiths / © Getty Images
Yousuf: At the time there were laws that allowed batsmen to choose if they want to carry on. Otherwise it was too dark and it even crossed the Maghrib prayer time. It was the month of Ramzan, I remember, and people had even broken their fast, but the English batted on. It had never happened before. But given the situation, when you have a chance to make history, I would also have batted in bad light. For them, it was not just about winning the game, it was also about winning the series for the first time in a long time. Beating Pakistan in Pakistan was considered big because we had such a strong batting and bowling line-up.
Pakistan's approach had been to try to slow the game down - despite the fact that offspinner Saqlain Mushtaq bowled almost half of the overs - eventually taking nearly three and a half hours to bowl 41.3 overs.
Moin Khan, Pakistan captain: It was the natural thing to do and well within the law. It wasn't like we were holding up the game by changing pads or something. We were playing like any team would have done to save the game. It was quite obvious England had the chance and they went for it. You can't do much about that, but it was the jurisdiction of the umpires to take a fair call.
Yousuf: It's a part of the game. It was already late and we were asking something which at any stage could have been asked for. We were wasting time, but it was already past the reasonable hour for cricket. It was clearly dark, the sun was down and play should have stopped by then.
Thorpe: Waqar kept looking at me and winking and stopping to do his laces up. And I'd say to him on his way back, "Do you want me to do your boots up for you?" "No, no, no," he said, "I seem to have a problem with the left one. That's the real problem." So there was a lot of humour going on in between it all.
But their tactics did not impress the senior standing umpire, Steve Bucknor. With regulations on bad light solely in the hands of the on-field officials, Bucknor resisted Khan's pleas to come off.
" I think the Telegraph the next day was going with 'Another boring draw, what a dull series' - but actually we ended up winning it 1-0"
Thorpe: Moin was constantly in Steve's ear. I had a good relationship with Moin and I could chat to him quite easily. There was a point when he finally walked over to Steve Bucknor. We needed about ten to win and he said, "C'mon Steve". So I went over and said, "Moin, you know we're going to finish the game." And he said, "I have to do everything, you know that, because I'm probably going to be sacked in the morning if we lose."
Waqar: Moin, as captain, wanted to not lose the series at any cost and he did what he had to. We realised the game was slipping away, so we tried to slow it down and that basically offended the umpires. Bucknor didn't like us pulling the game down and he was annoyed and said he was going to finish off the game.
Moin: The decision to have Mohammad Nazir stand as local umpire was wrong. The guy couldn't speak English and was not able to communicate properly [with Bucknor]. He was well aware about our concerns, but he wasn't getting into a discussion with his fellow umpire. He couldn't impose himself.
Naturally, England wanted to win and they were not in a position to lose the game, but it wasn't safe to play beyond the reasonable time. The safety of the players should have been paramount and it was shockingly disregarded, so from a cricketing point of view, it wasn't fair play.
Hussain: If you get on the wrong side of Steve Bucknor, if you keep winding up Steve Bucknor, he is not the sort to say, "Oh go on then, I'll change my mind". He will dig his heels in. But Moin did what every captain would do.
With England needing 20 runs to win and still 5.2 overs theoretically to be bowled, Hick's dismissal brought Hussain out into the middle.
Thorpe: Nass came out and he goes: "Mate, we're not getting five overs. I can barely see the bloody ball. You need to finish this as quick as we can." I said it's all right, Steve Bucknor says we're not going off. I keep asking him every over and Steve says so long as you're happy, we'll carry on. But then Nass played his first few shots, blinking away in front of me, Waqar charging in. He said, "I can't see it." So I had to start playing a few more shots.
Graham Thorpe (left) and Nasser Hussain completed the chase well after sunset
© Getty Images
Graham Thorpe (left) and Nasser Hussain completed the chase well after sunset © Getty Images
Hussain: When you get out in the middle, you're like, "Yeah, this is dark, I can't see Waqar"… I think I was dropped - I nicked one and Moin dropped it. My eyes were terrible anyway.
Waqar: With the light gone, there was almost no point carrying on. It was seriously dark and our fielders were struggling to see the ball. The building in the stadium had lights on everywhere. So it clearly wasn't the conditions to carry on - but if we had bowled our fast bowlers [more], it could have been a different story.
When the winning moment finally came, it was via an inside edge from Thorpe that trickled towards fine leg as everyone tried to work out where the ball had gone.
Hussain: I knew Thorpey hadn't nailed it. He had no idea where it went. I was lucky because it was in my line of vision, behind him.
Thorpe: Nass just said, "Run and get back!"
Yousuf: Luck was favouring them, and in just those one and half or two sessions, we had lost the game.
Thorpe: I think literally five to ten minutes after we came off, it was pitch black. From the dressing room, coming back on to the balcony, it was pitch black. With us opening up bottles of lemonade, because we couldn't drink in Pakistan. We were on a flight back to Dubai that evening, where we did have a few Guinnesses. There was about a two-hour turnaround from the end of the game, back to the hotel and on to a flight that night.
"There was a point when Moin finally walked over to Steve Bucknor and said, 'C'mon Steve.' So I went over and said, 'Moin, you know we're going to finish the game'"
Hussain: You look out onto the ground and think, "Really, were we playing cricket five minutes ago in this light? That's ridiculous." So was the light too bad at the end? Yes. Would we have gone off nowadays? Absolutely. But Steve Bucknor was not having the shenanigans.
So surprising was the turnaround in the match that it caught the English press pack on the hop. On the morning of the fifth day, the Telegraph back home had carried a piece by Michael Henderson calling Atherton's first-innings epic "insufferable viewing" and suggesting it had cost England the chance to win.
Hussain: He filed his copy and left a note for Athers, saying, "This is the most dull series ever, I'm going home." I think the Telegraph the next day was going with "Another boring draw, probably the most turgid series that's ever been played, what a dull series" - but actually we ended up winning it 1-0.
Atherton: The perils of journalism... I knew Hendo quite well from days up north and we've had a chuckle about that since. It would have been pretty dull at times, for sure. That's how Test cricket is sometimes. Not all five days are thrilling often.
England's six-wicket win enabled them to take the series - only their second such victory in Pakistan. It also ended the home side's unbeaten record in Tests at Karachi's National Stadium.
Atherton: I did know that. I remember Ted Dexter was the only previous England captain to win a series in Pakistan. I knew they had a very good record in Karachi.
Shout down the woof: the England players celebrated their win with a rendition of the Baha Men classic
© PA Photos
Shout down the woof: the England players celebrated their win with a rendition of the Baha Men classic © PA Photos
Hussain: I wasn't a great historian of the game. I just turned up at grounds and tried to beat the side that was in front of me. It's not until recently, because of social media and things like that, that I understood the importance and the significance of it.
It was too good an opportunity to miss and that's why the sort of adulation - we've done things on Sky, top moments, and people said they really remember and enjoyed that win in Karachi. So it does stand in people's minds, not just mine as a captain or players that were there. It must have made great, great watching at the end.
Moin: For me, being Pakistan captain and from Karachi, playing in Karachi, it was embarrassing and frustrating. It was a moment of sheer disappointment for losing a game that wasn't supposed to go the way it went.
It was a memorable conclusion to the tour for numerous reasons, not least the celebrations in the dressing room, which featured Fletcher woofing along to "Who Let The Dogs Out" by the Baha Men.
Hussain: I have no idea how that song infiltrated our dressing room - all this stuff passed me by as a captain. Someone must have been playing it on the back of the bus, and we might have done it at various points, I do not know. But suddenly we win in Pakistan, we have this historic moment, and we're all in a team huddle in the dressing room singing "Who Let The Dogs Out", and Duncan Fletcher is in the middle of it, leading it. It's not exactly the image you remember of the old England coach.
Atherton: I'd forgotten about the song. I remember in the celebrations in the dressing room getting an almighty crack on the nose from Craig White during a celebratory hug - he must have been in next, so he was still padded up and his bat was waving around and he just whacked me right on the end of the beak. That's my lasting memory of the celebrations.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick. Umar Farooq is the Pakistan correspondent
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.