England's Test return to Pakistan stirs up famous memories of times gone by

SM HUSSAIN: The erected light towers at the National Stadium Karachi weren't switched on, but the illuminating streetlights outside the stadium were suggesting that the horizon was turning dark


The English batters perhaps might have wished they had miners' lamps on their helmets, but even without them, they were willing to take the chance and chase the target.

As Saqlain Mushtaq trundled in to bowl to Graham Thorpe, England needed just two runs from the 2.4 mandatory overs left in the day to do the unthinkable – to seal a first Test series win in Pakistan in 39 years – and that too in a gloomy Karachi evening.

It was Mike Atherton's nine-hour-long innings (125 off 430 balls) that kept the visitors in the game after Pakistan put 405 runs on the board in the first innings.

When Atherton square drove Danish Kaneria for a single to reach his 16th and last Test century, he hardly showed any emotion as he took off his helmet, gingerly raised his bat, and managed just a scanty smile.

As Bob Willis, calling on the game, said: "It hasn't been the most beautiful century you'll ever see, but another vital one for England."

Vital it was; it meant that only two results were possible on the final day – a dull draw or Pakistan crumbling under pressure.

England required 176 runs in 44 overs to not only beat the home team in the Test match but also secure a first series win in Pakistan since 1961/62, when Ted Dexter's team won 1-0.

During the lunch break, Nasser Hussain, Duncan Fletcher and Thorpe had considered changing the batting order and sending Atherton down the order, but in the end, the team management stuck with the regular openers.


England celebrate in the dark after winning in Karachi (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Atherton and Trescothick gave England a quickish start – 38 runs in nine overs – but it was 91-run partnership between Hick (40) and Thorpe (64*) that gave England real hope.

Daylight quickly fades in the evening in December so the Pakistan team looked confident of saving the match.

At tea, while players were walking off the field, Atherton, according to his book Opening Up, told Inzamam: "We're going to beat you, you know." Inzamam replied: "No, no. We'll never let you finish the match. It will get too dark."

But in the final session, as desperation grew, Pakistan captain Moin Khan didn't hide his intentions, resorting to delaying tactics, holding discussions with his bowlers and changing the field after almost every delivery.

England were 166 for 4 when Moin conceded four byes stumps and immediately shouted in Urdu: "Oh come on yaar, gaind he nazar nahi a raha" (Oh come on mates, the ball isn't visible).

Moin appealed to Steve Bucknor, the umpire, about the bad light and his fielders' inability to see in the dark but he remained stony. Bucknor wasn't naive to the game within the game.

The game was taking place in the holy month of Ramadan in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. At around 5.30pm, Maghrib Azan (call to prayer) echoed across the ground and people broke their fast.

In the final moments of the run-chase, Michael Vaughan, Darren Gough and Atherton – under compulsion of cricketing superstition – did not leave their seats in the physio's room right next to the team's dressing room.


An emotional Nasser Hussain reflects on one of England's most famous wins (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Thorpe got the inside edge, the ball escaped Moin ad ran towards fine leg for two runs.

Cricket-mad families in Pakistan were sitting in front of the telly, breaking their fasts when Thorpe and Hussain guided the visitors to a historic six-wicket win.

The closing presentation was held under the dark skies and shining stars. It was an unprecedented scenario, never to be repeated.

In the 'dry' dressing room, Andrew Caddick had to pop open a white-soda bottle to spray on his teammates for their champagne moment. Who Let The Dogs Out echoed around the English dressing room. The team had to wait for a few hours until their transit in Dubai to celebrate with a Guinness.

Pakistan hadn't lost a single Test match at the National Stadium in Karachi. But on December 11, 2000, Hussain's men conquered the fortress.

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