Pakistan Test Blog
Geoff Wellsteed, author of Pavilions In Splendour — the Cricket grounds of Cheshire is visiting venues further afield this winter on England's tour to Pakistan.
Geoff Wellsteed's Pakistan blog
(28 November — 23 December 2022, but reports on cricket days only)
Thursday, 1 December (Rawalpindi Test, Day 1)
Islamabad calling! Arrived 48 hours ago in preparation for the three match Test series. The first Test started today in nearby Rawalpindi. This match is the 2478th Test match to have been played since the initial one in 1877. It is the thirteenth to be played on this ground but it is the first time that England have ventured into this city to play the longer form of the game. Given the 146-year Test timespan, I suspect you will be as intrigued as me to know that 86% of all Worldwide Test matches have been played during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. I doubt whether you knew that unless, like me, you happen to read The Cricketer magazine.
It was an extraordinary day's play. England's contrasting opening pair of Crawley and Duckett batted aggressively to put 233 on the scoreboard before the first wicket fell. The latter, a leftie is squat and unorthodox, his partner tall, elegant, right-handed and, on his day, the possessor of the most exquisite drive. Today was Crawley's day and he unfurled a string of beautifully timed shots on both sides of the pitch. Their partnership was the highest by an England opening pair since Alastair Cook and Nick Compton added 231 against New Zealand at Dunedin in March 2013 (I was there) but fell well short of the record opening stand of 359 created by Len Hutton and Cyril Washbrook at Ellis Park, Johannesburg in 1948. Pope joined the party and quickly scored his third Test match hundred before Yorkshire's Harry Brook displayed his rich talent. Cry God for Harry, England and St George! (with apologises to Shakespeare!) Root looked dandy in his peppermint soled boots but failed by his own high standards. Stokes, the new captain, was more belligerent than anyone contributing 34 off only 15 balls. The visitors go into Day 2 having chalked up 506 off a mere 75 overs. The hosts are on the backfoot but this is a very flat deck so expect more fireworks tomorrow (from both sides?)
The first few days here have been an absolute joy. Some fascinating trips to appreciate the ancient sites in the Islamabad locality which date back way before the eventual invasion by Alexander the Great in 326 BC. A visit to the main city mosque was jaw-dropping given it could comfortably accommodate 100,000 worshippers at any one time. In the fascinating, bustling city of Rawalpindi our touring group acquired a certain celebrity status, or perhaps mere curiosity, with the locals. It was quite a thought-provoking moment when our local tour guide pointed out, given the rarity of tourism in this area, that most locals would never have physically seen a European before. Handshakes and photographs were a prerequisite. I've experienced some hair-raising tuktuk rides in India but today's excursion reached new heights! Overtaking a helmetless motor-biker with a step-ladder in a vertical position strapped to his back while on his mobile phone was a new first, and seeing a family of five on a scooter was quite a spectacle!
And finally, a brainteaser for you. Which city is the capital of Pakistan? Is it Islamabad, Lahore or Karachi?............................ If you thought it was the one of the latter two go and stand in the corner.
Friday, 2 December (Rawalpindi Test, Day 2)
After yesterday's high jinks a quieter day might have been expected, but no!
Bazball demands that the game must proceed at lightning pace and so it did in the pre-lunch session. Stokes set the tone by biffing the second ball of the day in the crowd and then Harry Brook demonstrated why the Yorkies have been singing his praises for a year or two. One of three Sedbergh schoolboys on the Yorkshire staff, (George Hill and Matt Revis are the others), he has a lovely range of shots and exudes that inner confidence which is so essential to succeed at this elevated level. Livingstone is another with the swagger, arrogance and utter contempt for the opposition when he has a bat in his hand. But back to Brook — in only his second Test match he contributed 153 runs from a mere 116 deliveries including five 6s. His innings was as delightful as his second forename which is 'Cherrington'.
When Pakistan batted England quickly came to appreciate that the pitch was even more benign than they must have feared. The admirable Jimmy Anderson went through his entire repertoire and, while frugal, was largely ineffective. Expect Shafiq and Imam to complete their own centuries tomorrow. Now here's a thing. In the Test match against Australia played on this ground in March 2022 a total of 1187 runs were scored but only 14 wickets fell in the five-day game. The match officials described the pitch as bland and unsatisfactory for Test match cricket and Pakistan 'earned' a demerit point. Watch this space!!
On the records front England's eventual tally of 657 was the highest achieved on this ground since India managed 600 here in 2004. The statto's also revealed that England's first day total of 506 failed to beat the all-time day record of 509 (Day 2, Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, Colombo in 2002) but it is fair to add England needed only 75 overs whereas the Sri Lankans required 104. Just saying. Perhaps this match can challenge the current world record of eight centuries in a Test match?
Now I must tell you this. My Cheshire mate who has won Mastermind and Brain of Britain mailed me overnight about my reference to Islamabad being the capital of Pakistan. He points out that Islamabad is the only capital city in the world beginning with the letter 'i'. I hope you will sleep better with the knowledge of that little gem.
Saturday, 3 December (Rawalpindi Test, Day 3)
It didn't take long for both the Pakistani openers to bring up their hundreds and for the opening partnership to exceed 200. A very neat symmetry with the England innings. By lunchtime the score had progressed to just shy of 300 but importantly both the openers had departed along with Azhar Ali.
I would say England just shaded that first session but that was certainly not the case in the afternoon period as the hosts piled on another 113 runs without losing a wicket. Babar Ali, the darling of the home crowd, batted beautifully and the crowd repeatedly chanted his name. His eventual departure when the score was 473 was met with a stony silence. Rizwan went two runs later and England saw their opportunity to turn the screw.
Throughout the day Stokes had employed all sorts of shrewd tactical ploys to unsettle the batters and will have been delighted with the efforts of his team. Stokes is, of course, a veteran campaigner but has very limited captaincy experience, nevertheless, he was prepared to play mind games with the batters. He placed unexpected fields — cover point was withdrawn and two fielders were positioned at midwicket with another two at short cover — and he made unconventional bowling changes. Leach and Root used the new ball. The England clan in the stands were readily appreciative of his cat and mouse tactics especially after the predictable and unimaginative way in which Root and Cook had led the side in recent years.
Despite the insipid playing surface it was clear England were up for the challenge and all the bowlers persisted in difficult circumstances. The travelling supporters played their part and when Robinson bowled in tandem with Jack Leach the Barmy Army trumpeter burst into tune with a rendering of 'Mrs Robinson' and 'Hit the road Jack'! At one time the trumpeter competed with an Imam calling followers to the neighbouring mosque. The home fans were bemused. Incidentally the camaraderie between the two sets of supporters has been terrific. The Pakistani crowd are passionate about their cricket and delighted that England are here. We English are just thankful to be here and enjoying wonderful friendship, food and hospitality. How will day 4 unfold? Be clear England have not given up winning this game but Stokes, the miracle worker on so many occasions for his country, will need to find some real magic to get his team over the line in 'Pindi'.
One last comment. We've been here five days now and have yet to see a cloud. Oh to be a tourist.
Sunday, 4 December (Rawalpindi Test, Day 4)
What an astonishing day at the crick!
Those noted thriller writers, Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes have yet to scribe the last chapter of this particular tale but in the mean time they are redefining some of the terminology in cricket's lexicon. 'Draw' has been completely erased from the latest version. 'Brighter cricket' has been replaced by 'aggressive cricket' and 'positivity' now means 'kamikaze'. All this should be welcomed, but such positive thinking is a bit beyond the reach of the travelling fans here in Pindi and, no doubt, across the English counties. No one here at teatime could have imagined that Stokes would have declared at that point. Depending on your degree of caution the commonly held view is that England needed somewhere between another 50-80 runs. We shall see. During the morning session England eventually winkled Pakistan out for 579. In the circumstances England started their second innings with a lead of 78 and by lunchtime had extended it to 124. Pre-lunch Duckett was out first ball playing an aggressive shot.
After lunch Crawley and Root hastily pushed the score along before Brook crashed the ball to all parts. Incredibly England scored 218 between lunch and tea. That teatime declaration means that the home team were invited to score 343 in something like 98 overs. (An average of 78 overs have been bowled per day on Day 1-4). As we go into the final day Pakistan are 80-2 from 20 overs. Shafiq, who scored a century in his first innings, has gone and Babar Azam who was cheered all the way to the middle by the adoring masses on the terracing left in stony silence just five balls later. Can Pakistan score another 262 runs tomorrow? Will Stokes be a hero? All will unfold in the Pindi gladiatorial bowl tomorrow morning. Can't wait.
Monday, 5 December (Rawalpindi Test, Day 5)
Fortune favours the brave. And it most certainly did on this glorious occasion. The sceptics who thought Stokes Day 4 teatime declaration was premature were delighted to sing his praises this evening. England drew the first and only blood in the morning session when 'the Imam' was caught behind the stumps by 'the Pope'. A bespectacled left hand batter, Imam is technically very correct and his last three outputs on this ground have resulted in scores of 157, 111* and 121. By his own standards a knock of 48 was a relative failure.
Both the morning and afternoon sessions unfolded like a keen game of chess as both sides played for position. Pakistan really only moved the minor pieces and left England to make the more decisive moves but, that said, by teatime the scales were pretty evenly balanced. As the last session commenced the scoreboard showed Pakistan to be 257-5 from 77 overs. That is to say they needed 86 runs to win from a maximum of 40 overs. Given the fast-fading light in these parts the equation was more likely to be 86 from 22 overs. In the event before another eleven overs had been bowled they had added only 7 runs and lost 4 wickets.
The game was up, or was it? Zahid and Naseem offered stubborn resistance and caused Stokes to resort to the new ball before Jack Leach returned and took his only wicket of the innings 53 tense balls after the ninth wicket had tumbled. Anderson and Robinson were the real heroes just as Harry Brook had stolen the show yesterday. While the England players jumped up and down and hugged each like excitable students celebrating exam successes, the Pakistani team, magnanimous in defeat, quickly disappeared into their dressing room. No doubt an inquest will be held about the suitability of the pitch for Test match cricket but make no mistake this was a wonderfully competitive game and played in a terrific spirit. Undoubtedly cricket was the winner.
Last evening Naushad Ali (six test matches for Pakistan in 1965) was a guest speaker to our touring party and he was quite critical of the Test pitch. Given its docility I was reminded of reading about a certain event back in 1903 when former England captain and, at the time, the retiring MCC President, AG Steel putting a motion before 400 MCC members that 'to restore a proper balance between bat and ball the wicket should be widen from 8 to 9 inches'. The motion was lost even though 215 voted in favour but the requisite two-thirds majority was not obtained. (The stumps subsequently widened to 9 inches in 1947). If occurred to me that had the stumps been a foot wide here it might not have made that much difference given the batters domination!
Maybe the anticipation of an exciting final day caused me to wake up at 3am but I'm blowed if I could get back to sleep, anyway for some reason I started to think, don't ask me why, about cricketers who were also musicians. Of the modern era I thought of Mark Butcher (guitar) and Alastair Cook (clarinet) but my best recall was trombone playing Frank Parr. He was the Lancashire wicketkeeper in the early 1950s but liked a beer or two, offending disciplinarian skipper, Cyril Washbrook and that was the end of Frank! I'll try and think of a few more if I can't sleep tonight!
Tomorrow we are off to Murree, a hill-town tucked away in the lesser Himalayas. It was built in 1851 as a sanatorium for the British Troops to escape the scorching heat of the Punjab. I gather we will be up at 8500 feet. Meanwhile the England cricket team will be on Cloud Nine.
Friday, 9 December (Multan Test, Day 1)
After the Roy of the Rovers finish to the First Test match what could we expect here? Well, rather more of the same by all accounts! England made a promising start and at 117-1 looked well set, but they were all out by mid-afternoon for a modest 281 off 51.4 overs. In true Bazball style the run-rate was substantially over five. 'The Pope' batted as if he had a God-given right to notch up a hundred until he decided to get down on one knee and play a reverse sweep. That was the end of him. Is it too much to ask that this particular Pope does rather less genuflecting?
Others contributed but no one was prepared to play other than frenetically. Abrar Ahmed on debut, and only 22 years old, helped himself to the first seven England wickets to fall which he acquired at an average cost of only 16 runs each. His previous best in first-class cricket was 6-40. If seven wickets on debut is exceptionally rare how unusual is it for three players in a Test match to be wearing glasses? (Abrar, Imam and Jack Leach). Even more intriguing is the fact that the bespectacled Alf Valentine took eight wickets on his first appearance for the West Indies. No one else has achieved that feat, indeed he took the first eight England wickets that fell at Old Trafford Test in June 1950. He was denied a clean sweep by his calypso friend, Sonny Ramadhin (also on debut) who snared the tailenders Eric Hollies and Bob Berry.
At the close the hosts are nicely placed at 107-2 with skipper, and darling of the Pakistani terracing, Babar Azam on 61 not out. Don't underestimate him, he sits at '3' in the current ICC list of top Test batters. Can he go big on day 2? In horse-racing terminology Pakistan lead by at least one length but this is not a short sprint and there are still another four laps to run.
For the record this is only the fifth Test match ever played on this Multan ground. The last one was in 2006 when Pakistan played-out a high scoring draw with the West Indies. On that occasion Brian Lara helped himself to a double hundred (216) and Mohammad Yousuf scored 191. Before the latter converted to Islam in 2005 he identified as a Christian known as Yousuf Youhana. I am bound to ask you what links these two batting giants of the game together? Take a house-point if you knew they both played for Warwickshire. Lara (1994-98) and Yousuf (2011).
And, finally, I should mention I was overwhelmed with Don Bradman nominations for the cricketing musicians team. Apparently, he was an accomplished pianist. I'm told he also made a couple of records, presumably on those big black twelve-inch discs which revolved at 78rpm. Shame they couldn't get them to spin at 99.94!
Saturday, 10 December 2022 (Multan Test, Day 2)
I sat next to Liz at breakfast this morning. She is from Rowley Regis in the Black Country and follows the fortunes of West Bromwich Albion. Their fans are now referred to as the Baggies but in my youth they were commonly known as the throstles and that bird still appears on the club badge. I was grateful to learn they acquired that nickname as flocks of sparrows lived in the original hawthorn trees which eventually gave rise to the name of their ground. A gem of a fact to start the day don't you think?
The scene on arrival at the ground this morning was a very far cry from a normal Test match Saturday in England where capacity crowds and fancy-dress are the norm. Barely two-thousand supporters were present at the start of play in a stadium which probably holds close to 30,000. Pakistan started sedately enough and uneventfully added thirty-five runs to their overnight total before their superstar, Babar Azam was bowled by Robinson. Thereafter the home side collapsed like a pack of cards and were dismissed just before lunch.
Significantly they were 79 runs behind England's first innings total. In the afternoon session the England batters did their best to assist the Pakistan cause — Crawley and Pope were both carelessly run out and Will Jacks was bowled by the shot that Botham's mother-in-law would have been ashamed of had she ever arrived in these parts! Anyway, Duckett who made 79 and Keighley-born Harry Brook, surely the best batter Yorkshire have produced since Rooty more than a decade ago, is unbeaten on 74. If Pakistan had nudged their nose in front last night, England, with a lead of 281, now appear to cantering away towards the finishing line. Will they get the job done on Day 3?
I should say something about this country and here in Multan, a huge bustling conurbation, we appear to be seeing the 'real Pakistan'. In the north of the Punjab it was, perhaps, rather more affluent and gentile. Undoubtedly it is the most wonderful experience to visit this country, to see the tourist attractions and share friendship with people who have been deprived of international cricket on home soil for so long.
The security cordon here is unbelievably tight. As a tour group we cannot go anywhere without a police escort. On the way to the cricket ground and on our excursions around town our mini-bus is led by a jeep with four policemen on board all armed with rifles. All the access roads on our route are closed as we make the 30-minute journey to and from the stadium each day. The England team coach is surrounded by at least a dozen security vehicles and as many motorbike outriders along with a fire engine and an ambulance. There are thousands (no exaggeration) of armed army personnel and policeman lining the streets. Snipers lurk on rooftops. This evening one of the guides told me the cricket tour has been given the equivalent of presidential status and that over 7500 security staff are involved. If anything, that feels like an under-estimation but it is vital for the future of Pakistan cricket that this tour is incident free. The inconvenience is a small price to pay for the future wellbeing and continuance of international cricket in this cricket-mad country.
Sunday, 11 December (Multan Test, Day3)
There were some bleary-eyed tourists at brekkie this morning given the footie coverage finished well after 2am here. Poor old Harry Kane.
It was another gripping day at the crick. In chronological order England, (perhaps giving the impression they already had enough runs of the board to win?), made a hash of things as they converted an overnight 202-5 into an all out total of 275. Stokes added 25 to his overnight tally before being well caught in the deep, and Brook was out after completing another classy century having a slog while the tail collapsed around him. That left Pakistan 355 to win, a daunting task but not impossible given they had two and a half days to get them.
By lunchtime they had progressed smoothly to 64-0 having promoted Rizwan into the opening berth, a position he occupies with much success in the One-Day competitions. The hosts will have lunched well after that enterprising start, but Rizwan was toppled by Anderson's fifth ball after the break. The zing bails illuminated brightly like an element in those old Belling electric fires we all had back in the 1960s. His He could barely bring himself to depart from the middle such was his disappointment.
Tactically held back by the captain it was Anderson's first over in what was the sixteenth over of the innings. Four bowlers had a go before Jimmy got his hands on the ball. Give the captain some credit for his tactical nous which is anything but predictable. Far from it. Hereabouts Mr Dar was getting very agitated with the bowlers for encroaching into the 'forbidden rectangle', and he issued an official warning. Subsequent penalty runs were avoided but England clearly sought to gain any advantage they possibly could by fair or foul means. Babar Azam, idolised here as much as Kohli is worshipped in India, replaced Rizwan but within ten balls he was back in the dressing-room undone by Robinson who bowled with laser-like precision throughout.
The stadium was stunned. 67-2 became 83-3 when Shafiq was the third leading batter to have his stumps dismantled. By teatime Saud Shakil and Imam had repaired some of the damage and moved the score along to 136-3. The final session looked as if it would belong to Pakistan but crucially Leach, who had been leaking runs, lured the admirable Imam into a false defensive stroke and Root gratefully pouched the catch at slip. Was that the match-turning point? Can the men who so proudly wear the five-rayed star on their shirts score another 157 with six wickets still intact? Time is not an issue as six sessions remain. A whole nation says they can, but ten Englishmen lead by two progressives, both born in the land of the long white cloud, will do their utmost to spoil the Multan party.
Now, finally, can someone help me please? I've been troubled about this subject for a good while. How do the England shirt numbers get allocated? I get it that Root would want to wear '66' but why does Jimmy have '9' and others a propensity of double-digits like Wood who displays '33', Stokes '55', Leach '77' and Brook '88'? Curiously '22' is unallocated. Is this because no one wants to wear two little ducks? I'm desperate to know the answer. I'd be grateful for a call if you have the solution.
Monday, 12 December, Multan Test (Day 4)
The overnight equation was quite simple. Could England take six wickets before Pakistan scored another 157 runs. The historical data across all Test cricket stacked the odds firmly against the home side.
There are some very high peaks in this part of the world and Pakistan couldn't quite surmount the Everest-high target placed before them by England. To chase down 355 was a very daunting task and there was no shame in only getting within striking distance of it. Indeed, it was a commendable effort. While Saud Shakil was at the crease there was some hope but when he perished with 94 against his name the game was all but up. Salman (20">and Abrar (17) whacked four boundaries each, but I thought (and others will violently disagree) that Stokes always all had the upper-hand. Let's be clear Stokes is never predictable. Surely there was an over-reliance on Leach (?) who leaked runs at more than four an over while Robinson, his most mean bowler, was only called on to bowl 25 balls in total on the final morning. The captain did not see the need to bowl himself at all. Ultimately, he was clearly confident of victory and so it proved. So off we go to Karachi for the third and final match. Will England stick with the winning unit or ring the changes?
My plea for some help in understanding how the shirt numbers are allocated to the England players led, I'm please to say, to a bulging inbox. My good friend, Ken Grime, who has served Lancashire CCC on the administrative front for a good few decades volunteered that at one time he was responsible for the task of numbering at the Red Rose county. When Jimmy Anderson and Kyle Hogg signed for Lancashire on the same day only numbers 9 and 22 (nothing higher allowed in those days) were vacant and Jimmy was given '9' in preference to Kyle on alphabetic grounds! Jimmy carried that same number forward to England.
Dudley, a fellow tourist, provided me with some online evidence that both Johnny Bairstow (51) and Ben Stokes (55) have selected numbers relating to the year of birth of their late fathers. A lovely touch don't you think? Thanks everybody for your contributions too numerous to mention. In recent evenings we have had talks from Aggers, Vic Marks and Waqar Younis. The latter lost a finger in a childhood prank which reminded me of my former playing days on Merseyside where we regularly played against a guy with an artificial leg who was a very decent batter and an agile wicketkeeper. He only ever wore one pad. I want to tell you he was once given out 'pbw' (prosthetic before wicket) but, regrettably, it wouldn't be true! More of this nonsense once the Karachi Test gets underway.
Saturday, 17 December (Karachi Test, Day 1)
Let's kick-off with a bit of a sweep-up. Just a few more cricket musicians — I completely forgot those former West Indian cricketers, both knighted of course, Curtly Ambrose and Richie Richardson who both play guitar in the same reggae band, and I am exceptionally grateful to my man at Lightcliffe CC (Bradford League) who nominated 'Old' John Small, the celebrated Hambledon cricketer of the 1700s. The introduction of the third stump was partly attributed to him as during one particular match he was three-times bowled by Lumpy Stevens, but the ball passed between the only two stumps used in those early days! Anyway, he was I am told a good fiddler and also taught himself to play the double bass.
Before we left Multan the tour group had a very congenial evening with Aggers. He reflected on his playing career and also about his early days on TMS with Brian Johnston, Henry Blofeld and others. It was quite a nostalgic walk down memory lane. Inevitably he mentioned the Botham 'leg over' story!
While in Multan I was also fortunate enough to get the opportunity to umpire a South Punjab Cricket Association Colts T20 match at a very nicely appointed facility in the city centre. Some very talented youngsters on show. And our subsequent 48-hour stay in Lahore — a beautiful city full of colonial buildings — was a pretty sensational one. Not only did we get the opportunity to visit the lovely old Gymkhana ground (founded 1880), and the Gaddafi stadium (last Test v Australia in March 2022) we also had a very interesting couple of hours at the Pakistan Cricket Board Academy with its fabulous facilities and a visit to their cricket museum housed within the same complex. It was as good as any other cricket museum I have ever visited. I could have stayed there all day but others were not quite so enthusiastic! Thereafter we visited Aitchison College, Lahore's Eton/Harrow equivalent. Imran Khan is an old boy. It has the most magnificent school buildings and the cricket ground was exceptional.
So the third, and final, Test started this morning at the National Stadium here in Karachi. At no stage did the crowd swell beyond 2 or 3000, such is the preference for 'hit and giggle' cricket in these parts. That said, those that were there made quite a din led by Simon Finch the new Barmy Army trumpeter. We had several rendering of 'Singing in the rain' which didn't seem entirely appropriate as it was a very hot and sunny day but 'Jingle Bells' was probably allowable? To my untrained ear Finch is accomplished and tuneful as the Barmies are persistent, but tuneless. Anyway, they all seemed to enjoy themselves.
It felt like England had their nose in front for most of the day but just before the end Crawley was pinned in front of the stumps by Abrar, who may well hold the key to this match? Duckett survived a review just before the umpires decided the light was unsatisfactory. Pakistan should be disappointed with an eventual total of 304 given some sloppy dismissals but tomorrow is another day and they will be heartened by Abrar's late success.
Rehan Ahmed made his debut for England. Quite remarkable really since this is only his fourth first-class match. (But he has already chalked up a century and recorded a 'Michelle' for Leicestershire). Born in Nottingham, he was only 18 in August so becomes England's youngest player ever. He gives the ball a good tweak and showed up well on debut. For those who like quirky statistics Wasim, making his first appearance for Pakistan, opened his batting account with a six. Not sure how many there are in that particular club? Not many I suspect.
Sunday, 18 December (Karachi Test, Day 2)
Now, just in case you have been worrying yourself silly about Wasim's big six-hit yesterday I can add a bit more. My mate, who is still churning out the runs for Cheshire Over 70s, tells me that Mark Craig of NZ smacked the very first ball he received in Test cricket for a six (v WI, Sabina Park 2014) and after a bit more research I think I am right in saying that Wasim joins at least twelve others who have got off the mark with a six as distinct from hitting their very first ball over the ropes. I'm grateful to a Surrey member who suggests the last one before Wasim to do so was Rishabh Pant (Eng v India, Trent Bridge, 2018).
What an absorbing day at the Hanif Mohammad National Stadium. When England were 77-3 at the morning drinks interval it felt as if Pakistan had the upper-hand although the Surrey pontiff, and Brook, himself widely worshipped across the Broad Acres, had started to repair the early damage. The Vatican man was out with the score on 98 and replaced in the middle by the non-conformist, Stokes. When the scoreboard showed 145 he became the second captain in this match to be Run Out. Oh dear. Follow the faith!
Thereafter Foakes lent excellent support to Brook who gave a batting masterclass. In this series he has now scored 468 runs in only five innings and has a series batting average of 92. Yorkshire's Bradman? When he eventually departed, Foakes pushed on ably assisted by some enterprising batting from Wood and Robinson. When the last wicket fall England had a 50 run advantage. The home side did well to survive an awkward nine overs unscathed before the close, but are they now staring down the barrel? Well not just yet, but don't bet against an Argentina/England double.
The fun was not confined to the playing area. There was much merriment and high jinks on the terracing. The Barmies sang to the locals who happily joined in with their own chanting of Pakistan, Pakistan! The more reserved of us observed the jollity rather than any active participation, but it was a privilege to be part of so much friendship and camaraderie.
Now, most of you will know I am proud of my Reading roots and like to do my bit to promote the town. (Rejected for city status yet again!) Anyway, pre-match Simon Finch, the new Barmy Army trumpeter noticed I was wearing a Reading FC shirt and asked me if I knew Derek Watkins, apparently a British legend with an international reputation for being one of the world's best all-round trumpet players. To my great shame I had to confess he had escaped my attention. However, I did mention that when I stood behind the goal at Elm Park as a very young Reading footie fan we were always entertained pre-match, and at halftime, by the George Watkins Spring Gardens Brass Band. Blow me down, it transpires George was Derek's granddad. And Simon is now (painfully) aware that twenty-six first-class cricketers were born in the town along with Kate Middleton, Sam Mendes, Kate Winslet, Arthur Negus and Matthew Syed. So very glad I came to Karachi to establish yet another celebrity was born in my home town. Happy days!!
Monday, 19 December (Karachi Test, Day 3)
There have been very many highlights on this epic tour but today was a relative low for those of us wanting to witness the culmination of the series end in a tight, even contest. Early Pakistani hope (53-0) soon evaporated and a slide became a procession. England were left 167 to win and by scheduled close were within 55 runs of victory. The visitors will inevitably win, and deservedly so, way before lunchtime tomorrow to take the series 3-0. Debut boy, Rehan Ahmed, had a match to remember bagging a five-wicket haul in the second innings and seven overall. Indisputably, Pakistan have some urgent selection issues to decide, and may be a change of management, before the imminent, upcoming tour by the New Zealanders.
Last evening Bazid Khan spoke to our tour group. He is the son of Majid Khan and the grandson of Jahangir Khan. All three generations played Test cricket and alongside the Headley's (George, Ron and Dean) they are the only two families in the history of the game to achieve that feat. When Bazid was asked whether he regarded his Test debut or his first-class triple hundred as the highlight of his career he nominated neither. On one occasion after a match Brian Lara came into his dressing room and congratulated on a fine batting performance and he regarded that as his proudest moment. Jahangir will be forever remembered for killing a sparrow in flight at Lord's when he innocently drove a ball towards the boundary for Cambridge University against the MCC in 1936. The sparrow, suitably mounted, has now been resident in the Lord's Museum for 86 years. Only a few will know the bowler of that delivery was Tom Pearce.
A feature of a visit to this part of the world is the chaotic traffic and it has been remiss of me not to mention the large brightly coloured lorries which frequent the roads by the thousands here. Absent is the branding so commonly displayed in the UK in favour of what might be best described as canal-ware livery. It is a real and unmissable feature of travel throughout Pakistan. By the way, tailgating is taken to a new level in this country. Think millimetres!
Apart from a couple of days sightseeing in Karachi that completes my most exciting cricket and educational venture. This is a wonderful country and it has been a spectacular expedition. Back to the UK now for more mundane duties. On Christmas Eve I need to collect Doughnut from the cattery and Jeremy the tortoise from the pet shop!
Until the next time, Merry Christmas everybody.