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Rewind to...a Pakistan-England clash that rivalled the Ashes

Rewind to…a Pakistan-England clash that rivalled the Ashes
Jack Russell (centre) was on his first tour when England toured Pakistan for a Test series in 1987.
©REUTERS / Action Images
 

Modern England tours are mostly bland, whistle-stop affairs. They fly in days before the first game, play a short series - which they usually lose - and then fly out.

When was the last time an England tour, excluding the Ashes, pierced the national consciousness? It wasn’t always that way of course.

To say England’s 1987 tour to Pakistanwas eventful is an understatement. In Wisden’s report of the Test series, it described "some of the most shameful scenes witnessed in any sport, never mind one traditionally associated with fair play, courtesy, high moral values."

Ten days before the tour started, England had lost the 1987 World Cup final to Australia in Calcutta.

To schedule a tour so soon after the World Cup was ill-advised. The players had been away from home a long time and defeat in the final left them deflated. That may have contributed to some of the events.

"We had the World Cup beforehand and then picking yourself up and having another six weeks in Pakistan was tough going," says Phil Defreitas, a key member of England’s bowling attack.

"You’re representing your country so you just get on with it but we never felt it was fair play in the Test match series…we didn’t feel that things went our way. It was a tough tour."

After winning the One-Day International series 3-0, England were thrashed in the first Test in Lahore by an innings and 87 runs.

Pakistan’s leg spinner Abdul Qadir, the best slow bowler in the world at the time, took 9-56 in a match winning first innings performance.

England felt that they did not have the rub of the umpiring decisions, a theme that continued throughout the tour.

In England’s second innings, Chris Broad had to be persuaded by Graham Gooch to leave the crease, refusing to walk after being adjudged caught behind. It took Gooch over a minute to move Broad along.

Broad was reprimanded – Pakistan wanted him sent home – so the second Test match in Faisalabad was simmering with tension before it had even started.

In Pakistan’s first innings it exploded. Responding to England’s 292, Pakistan were struggling at 106 for five when umpire Shakoor Rana, standing at square leg, stopped the game to tell the Pakistan batsman that David Capel had moved position from deep square leg to try and prevent a single.

Gatting thought that far exceeded the remit of the umpire and a blazing row ensued, finger wagging and all. "The language employed throughout the discourse was basic," said Wisden. Rana refused to allow the game to continue until he had received an apology.

Among the England tour party was wicketkeeper Jack Russell. The Gloucestershire keeper was on his first tour and remembers thinking it could be his last.

"It was the tour of the Mike Gatting – Shakoor Rana finger wagging," says Russell. "We were going to strike during the dispute which was a bit scary because my international career was going to be over before it had even started."

In the end, Gatting apologised through gritted teeth and the game continued, but only after six hours of lost play and the intervention of the British High Commission. There was fault on both sides but the scenes were unedifying.

"The dispute worked well for Pakistan," says Russell. "We lost a whole day of the only Test we looked like winning and it ended in a draw." England drew the third Test and lost the series 1-0 as a result.

Despite the controversy, Russell has fond memories of Pakistan, memories that remain vivid to this day. "I only played two days of cricket myself so I spent a lot of time sketching. I loved Peshawar in the north west frontier although you had to book a call home a week in advance from there!"

Due to the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009, security concerns have meant that only Zimbabwe have toured Pakistan to play full internationals since but in 1987 times were different and England visited much of the country, including the city of Sahiwal where they played a three-day tour game between the first and second Tests.

The current generation of player is used to plush five star hotels everywhere they go but back then it was different.

England stayed at the Montgomery Biscuit Factory in Sahiwal, a less than salubrious establishment. Russell remembers: "The Montgomery Biscuit Factory was a legendary place to stay. There were mosquitoes as big as golf balls buzzing all night."

Micky Stewart, England’s coach at the time, wrote in his autobiography of their stay in Sahiwal: "I asked Bill Athey to organise some entertainment. Over the three days we must have played about ten hours of Give Us A Clue."

"We lived on cuppa soup and baked beans," says Russell. "I volunteered myself to be in charge of the team microwave which I kept in my room for safety. I can still do a great Peshawar hotpot; microwave tinned stew and baked beans. Heaven!"

The tour took its toll but the England team were a strong unit. For Russell, it was an eye-opener but also a memorable experience: "We had some great characters on that trip," he said. "I wouldn’t have missed it for the world."

There is no condoning the events of that tour but entertaining and gripping series that evoke debate and discussion are what makes cricket a great sport.

At a time when the future of Test cricket is being debated, it is something the modern game could do with more of.

A little bit of passion never hurt anyone either and the 1987 tour certainly had plenty of that.

© Cricket World 2015