“Kardar’s men escaped with a draw, but they did not quite get away from harsh criticism”….
The first Test at Lord’s had witnessed incessant rain and an impressive Pakistan fightback. The established cricketing world sat up to take notice of a new side off the blocks who could hold their own against the mighty Englishmen.
However, as the series moved to Nottingham, the new cricketing nation was brought down to the ground with a crash.
Yet, despite the perils of Pakistan, the Test will be remembered as one of the immortal matches showcasing everything that characterises schoolboy fiction.
A few days after his 30th birthday, the Yorkshire bowler Bob Appleyard had been included in the Test side.
The medium-paced off-spinner had recently come back from the jaws of death. Afflicted with tuberculosis, he had been operated by surgeon Geoffrey Wooler, and had been granted a second lease of life at the expense of half a lung.
With the Pakistanis batting first, and the score 37 for 1 with Hanif Mohammad and Waqar Hasan at the crease, captain David Sheppard, standing in for Len Hutton, waved towards third-man and beckoned the survivor to roll his arm over.
Hanif Mohammed took strike. The second ball seemed to move away. Hanif moved across to play it. It darted back to hit him in front of the stumps. In the third over Maqsood Ahmed was caught off a ball that moved away off the seam. In his fourth, Waqar Hassan was bowled by a fast yorker. And in the fifth, Imtiaz Ahmed was bowled by a quicker one which spun sharply from the off.
In the first 27 balls of his Test career, on a firm, true wicket, Appleyard had dismissed 4 Pakistani top-order batsmen. He finished with 5 for 51. The mix of ins-wingers, leg-cutters and off-spinners, a variation of pace and flight, was too much for the batsmen. Pakistan were all out for 157. By the end of the day, England were sitting pretty on 121 for 2. Denis Compton had just come in to bat, he was unbeaten on 5.
The Wednesday before the Test match had witnessed a total eclipse of the sun. Hence, headlines were rife about Appleyard eclipsing the Pakistan batting the following day.
The following day saw a sheer carnage. Compton rolled the years back. It was as if the heydays of 1947 had arrived yet again. Dropped by Imtiaz off Fazal Mahmood at 20, he hit his way to a magnificent 278.
John Arlott’s immortal commentary paints the picture. With the Pakistani attack being put to sword, here is how Arlott described the field. “Kardar seems to have about four fielders and seven missionaries. As they used to say in Victorian days, sent into distant fields. They’re still in Trent Bridge but only just.”
And when the strike was rotated and Trevor Bailey played his characteristic forward defensive prod in the aftermath of Compton’s flurry of boundaries, Arlott summed it up, “After the Lord Mayor’s show, comes the dust guard.”
Compton and Bailey also ran … calling for two with the uncharitable analysis of “He can’t throw.” Yes, apart from Hanif and Waqar, the fielding was rather ordinary. Fazal broke down after 10 overs of normal pace and then came off a shorter run. It infuriated Kardar, who thought Fazal had declared himself fit without fully recovering from injury.
When Sheppard called a halt to the proceedings, it seemed more due to the compassion that came with his calling of a clergyman rather than due to cricketing reasons.
558 for 6 was a formidable response to 157. And to make matters worse, rain fell, changing the nature of the wicket. There was no way Pakistan could put up a fight against Alec Bedser, Brian Statham, Johnny Wardle and Appleyard after that. Only Hanif, incredibly aggressive this time around, hit 51 in an hour and a quarter. The rest of the batting fell away. They were bowled out for 129.
And the murmurs did the rounds … “Pakistan is not prepared for Test cricket.”
Such whispers grew louder when England hit 359 for 8 at Old Trafford and after a day’s rain had changed the wicket the Pakistanis were routed for 90. In the second innings, they were 25 for 4 when the skies opened again. Before that MEZ Ghazali was dismissed for the quickest pair in Test history.
The team spent another day sitting in the pavilion, singing Punjabi songs that supposedly incite the clouds into rain. The songs seemed to work. The match could not be resumed.
Kardar’s men escaped with a draw, but they did not quite get away from harsh criticism. Neville Cardus was scathing in his remarks: “To say the plain truth, the Pakistan team would scarcely hold its own in the English county cricket championship with Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Middlesex or Northamptonshire, not even in fine weather.”
There was ridicule in the press, dissension in the camp, the captain’s job, in the traditional Pakistani way, was on the line.
All that changed at The Oval.
But that is another story.