“It had been a weird game of cricket after three and a half days of rain, but the young cricketing nation of Pakistan had come through it unscathed”.
The tale of England-Pakistan cricketing relations has been unlike any other bilateral series in history.
From manhandled officials to diplomatic issues, from captain-umpire brawls to ball tampering accusations, from court cases to forfeited Test matches, from spot-fixing to splendid cricketing action, the contests have seen them all.
And it all started with immense drama from the very first time that the two teams played each other.
In fact, even with Pakistan cricket less than two years old, the intrigue surrounding captaincy was already in vogue. Abdul Hafeez Kardar, the pioneering leader, saw supporters of a rival camp planning a coup. When the opposition gained a majority in the BCCP, Kardar had to resolve the issue through higher powers.
Iskander Mirza, the Defence Secretary, settled the problem by refusing passports and foreign currency to the cricketers unless Kardar was named captain.
Having overcome such demanding challenges at home, Kardar now had to deal with critics. None of them gave the new side a chance. Few Englishmen, apart from the wise Alf Gover, thought much about the team. Even Vijay Merchant, the Indian batting great, was skeptical about their chances.
Besides, the England team to be faced was formidable. Led by Len Hutton, they had batting giants like the captain himself, Denis Compton, a young Peter May and Bill Edrich. Amongst the bowlers, Hutton could pick and choose from a smorgasbord of extraordinary talent in the form of Alec Bedser, Fred Trueman, Brian Statham, Johnny Wardle, Jim Laker, Tony Lock, Ray Tattersall and Bob Appleyard. Trevor Bailey performed both roles. And Godfrey Evans kept wickets. They were the strongest team in the world.
Pakistan hardly had a sketchy First-Class experience, to say the least. To give just one example, Khalid Wazir, playing as a batsman, lacked a First-Class fifty.
Besides rain followed them around on the tour, the poor team having to deal with conditions they had no experience of.
The first Test was at Lord’s and it rained straight through the first three days. The meeting with the Queen had to be rescheduled, from the field of play to the Buckingham Palace.
When play started at 3:45 PM on the fourth day, the Pakistani batsmen had to deal with a sticky. Hutton had shown no hesitation in sending them in.
In conditions tailor-made for him, the left-arm spinner Wardle scythed through the innings. The day ended at 50 for 3, all three wickets to the left-armer.
The following morning, Statham joined in and the visitors were shot out for 87. Only Hanif Mohammad, hardly making an attempt to score, batted for three hours for his 20.
The objective with which England went into bat was to get quick runs and try and bowl Pakistan out during the course of the day. However, Khan Mohammad, the quick bowler with experience in English club cricket, sent the stumps of Len Hutton cartwheeling with a swinging yorker before the great man had scored.
It seemed a minor hiccup when Reggie Simpson and Peter May took the score to 55. But then Fazal Mahmood struck, trapping the former leg before. Fazal and Khan kept bowling in tandem, and sent back one Englishman after another.
After 100 minutes of batting, England managed a 30-run lead but lost 9 wickets in the process. Declaration came at 117 for 9. Fazal had taken 4, Khan 5. They had bowled unchanged, 16 and 15 overs respectively.
There was still time enough in the match to force a decision. 145 minutes remained, and when Alimuddin was bowled by Bailey for a duck an English win did not look too far-fetched.
But Hanif seemed to have grown roots in the crease, enjoying the damp soil. He batted all 145 minutes, falling to the final delivery of the match from Jim Laker. He scored just 39, but for the 59 runs in the match, he had spent 5 hours and 40 minutes at the wicket.
Waqar Hasan’s 53 also helped the cause. The match ended with Pakistan on 121 for 3 in the second innings, their confidence boosted and the rubber in balance.
It had been a weird game of cricket after three and a half days of rain, but the young cricketing nation of Pakistan had come through it unscathed.
The template of immense drama had been laid.