“The Lahore Test was first England played in Pakistan and they kicked off with a win. It would be 2000 and a famous chase in the dark before they would end up victorious again in the country”.
It was a curious tour.
The action kicked off at Rawalpindi in October, moved on to another tour match at Faisalabad and then the first Test of the series at Lahore.
And then suddenly the MCC crossed the border, played the Indian Universities in Kirkee, West Zone at Ahmedabad and Bombay in Bombay before playing India in a long series of 5 Tests ending at Madras in the middle of January.
Following that, the side moved to the other Indo-Pak border of those days to play the second Test versus Pakistan at Dacca. The final Test was played in early February at Karachi.
That was not all. The team then proceeded down south to play three matches in Ceylon.
The whimsical itinerary did take its toll on the English side. They lost the series in India 0-2.
However, before it went all so crazy, they took the lead against Pakistan at Lahore, and manage to hold on to it till the very end.
Yes, England won the first Test that they ever played in Pakistan.
It would take them nearly four decades and 20 Tests to win the next one in the country.
Drab, dry … but not a draw
However, for the first few days of the Test, it looked destined for a drab, dry draw.
Javed Burki took his time over a mammoth 138, compiled over nearly seven hours. By the time the umpires removed the bails on the second day, England were 109 for 2 in response to the 387 for 9 declared of Pakistan. The spectators were on the verge of a coma.
Ken Barrington and MJK Smith were blocking nearly everything, taking a leaf out of the Pakistan book and going further, making it into a complete new edition. Whereas Pakistan had scored at significantly less than 3 an over, England’s rate hovered just over 2.
The rest day mercifully broke the tedium. And after that Smith and Barrington crawled through the morning and much of the afternoon of the following day. Captain Ted Dexter sat padded up in the pavilion, sweating in the heat, as his two batsmen stonewalled their way hour after hour. Perhaps this frustration led to his eventual hit-wicket dismissal in the innings.
It was 213 when Barrington ran Smith out, with the latter just a run short of his 100. Perhaps stricken with remorse, the Surrey professional ran himself out as well, but by then he had batted seven and a quarter hours for 139.
England ended the third day at 321 for 6, the soul of the Test match already in deathbed.
However, the fourth day turned things around.
The England tail wagged for a while with off-spinner David Allen getting 40. But in the end, they had to concede a 7-run first innings deficit.
However, the Pakistanis collapsed in the second innings.
The pitch did not really break up. But the batsmen crumbled. Alan Brown, the debutant Kent seamer who would play just one more Test in his career, was playing only because the likes of Fred Trueman and Brian Statham had decided to skip the tour. He removed the limpet-like Hanif Mohammad, and then dismissed the classy Saeed Ahmed for a duck. Imtiaz Ahmed, burdened with the triple load of captaincy, wicketkeeping and opening the batting, lost his stumps to the medium pace of his opposite number. It was 33 for 3.
With the inroads made into the innings, spinners Allen and Bob Barber got into their groove. Barber, a brilliant batsman whose leg-breaks were sparingly used back home, relished his role as the second spinner. By the end of the day, the hosts were reeling at 149 for 9.
It was only a 52-run final wicket stand between Afaq Hussain and Haseeb Ahsan that stretched the Pakistan innings to 200. When MJK Smith at short-leg snapped up the offering from Ahsan off Barber, the Englishmen needed 208 to score with most of the final day to get them in.
It would not be easy, on a fifth day Lahore track with Intikhab Alam eager to get into the fray. Besides, pacemen Mohammad Munaf and Mahmood Hussain got the early breakthroughs, including the first innings centurion Barrington, to reduce England to 17 for 2.
However, the experience of Peter Richardson soothed the nerves, MJK Smith was again difficult to dislodge. And coming in at 86 for 3, captain Dexter hit a cavalier unbeaten 66, adding a brisk unbeaten 101 with the exuberant Barber.
Just when it was required, the run rate was pulled up to a healthy 3.54 and England emerged victorious by 5 wickets, winning with quite a bit to spare.
As already stated, they held on to this lead.
In the second at Dacca, Hanif Mohammad scored 111 in the first innings over 8 hours and 20 minutes, and 104 in the second in 6 hours and 35 minutes. He batted almost 15 hours in the match, more than half the Test.
There was a sizzling development as England travelled to West Pakistan for the final part of the Test tour. Fazal Mahmood, now 34 and dropped from the Test side, met the tourists while playing for Bahwalpur and skittled them for 114, claiming 6 for 28. This earned him a recall for the final Test.
But at Karachi Dexter hit 205 and Fazal’s 63 overs went wicketless. And after conceding a 254-run first innings deficit, Pakistan rode Hanif’s five-hour vigil of 89 and some other valiant defensive knocks down the order to finish with a draw.
The Lahore Test was first England played in Pakistan and they kicked off with a win. It would be 2000 and a famous chase in the dark before they would end up victorious again in the country.