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Sadiq Speaks: Testing times

*Saj Sadiq is a cricket writer who writes for outlets such as Sky Sports, The Cricket Paper and is also the Editor of the Pakistan cricket website PakPassion.*
— 11 October 2017

Saj Sadiq takes a look back at previous Test encounters between between England and Pakistan at Emerald Headingley.

The terms exciting, unpredictable and talented are those that have been associated with Pakistan cricket since they became the seventh nation to be given Test status in 1952. Whilst Test teams from Pakistan have continued to entertain crowds around the world since their first game in New Delhi, the special attention and admiration they have received in England has made them star summer attractions over many years.

The English spectators have always turned out in large numbers to see legends of Pakistani cricket from the likes of Fazal Mahmood, Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir to the more recent ones in Inzamam-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq and Yasir Shah as they have showcased their tremendous skills under sometimes difficult and somewhat alien conditions.

It would be fair to say that despite some dazzling performances when on tour in England, Pakistan have never had the better of the home side at one of the most iconic and familiar venues in the world, Headingley.

Of the nine matches played between England and Pakistan in Leeds since July 1962, Pakistan have only won one game. Their only other success came against Australia in 2010 where Headingley was the scene of the final match of a two-match Test series played in a neutral location. The victory by 3 wickets helped Pakistan square the series 1-1.

The Pakistan connection with Headingley began in 1962 with a one-sided game between a nascent Pakistan Test side which ended in an innings victory for a very strong England team which boasted the likes of Colin Cowdrey, Mickey Stewart, Fred Trueman and Brian Statham to name a few. The Pakistan team that played at Headingley then also had some top names in it, foremost of which was Hanif Mohammad who held the record for the longest Test innings (337) and the spectators must have looked forward to a spectacular innings by the ‘little master’ which sadly did not materialise.

Whilst the 1971 encounter resulted in a relatively narrow 25 run-victory for England, the subsequent tours of 1974 and 1978 were to see the arrival of a new breed of Pakistan cricketers, some of whom were well on their way to becoming top names in international cricket. Majid Khan and his cousin Imran Khan were two players the English crowds would come to recognise and the likes of Zaheer Abbas, Asif Iqbal and Intikhab Alam were some other big names which would become familiar sights at English county grounds in the coming years.

  • England cricketer Graeme Fowler (centre, left) batting against Pakistan in the 3rd Test at Headingley, Leeds, 26th - 31st August 1982. England won the match by three wickets.
  • The 1982 tour of England by Pakistan saw an exciting series with its finale held at Headingley. The build-up to the final Test of the series was an exciting two matches at Edgbaston and Lord’s. Whilst England won a remarkable victory in the opening Test at Edgbaston, Pakistan came roaring back with an equally fantastic victory at Lord’s. The scene was therefore set for a do-or-die battle at the home of Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Two of the best all-rounders known to cricket followers, Ian Botham and Imran Khan went into battle at Headingley. The outcome of this conflict was a tremendous display of cricketing prowess over a period of five days which was replete with the thrill of a typical Javed Miandad innings followed by the mesmerising qualities of Abdul Qadir’s deliveries, and then there was Imran Khan’s fearless leadership as well as his all-round strength. A hard-fought England victory by 3 wickets decided the fate of the series but Headingley witnessed one of the finest matches ever.

    The subsequent 1987 series will be memorable for Pakistan fans as this was their first ever victory at Headingley after five previous win-less encounters against a team that was fast becoming its arch-nemesis. But this tour was to see the emergence of yet another talent from Pakistan. Whilst Imran Khan was growing in years as he had done in stature, the world of cricket would take notice of Imran Khan’s young left-arm fast-bowling prodigy in the shape of Wasim Akram. In a match lasting just 4 days, a superior Pakistan bowling unit consisting of the mighty Imran and Wasim would lay waste to the England batting line-up, and in the process avenging their country’s innings loss in 1962 with an innings victory of their own against the hosts.

    A somewhat fractious series in 1992 between the two teams was brought alive at Headingley when the home side were able to turn the tables on a rampant Pakistan side which was by now armed with one of the best fast-bowling pairs in the history of cricket. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, or the 2 Ws as they were known were unstoppable, but what the crowds in Headingley saw was an England team lead from the front by a resolute Graham Gooch which took on the visitors. A memorable century by Gooch in the first innings and able assistance by an equally solid Mike Atherton saw-off the threat from the Pakistan fast-bowlers and the wily Mushtaq Ahmed.

  • Ijaz Ahmed, known affectionately as the ‘axe man’ for his unusual agricultural style of playing shots, was Pakistan’s star in the 1996 visit. The match was drawn but not before the Headingley crowd was treated to a magnificent display of batting by Alec Stewart where he scored 170. The series was won by Pakistan but the quality of batting on display was a treat to watch for the locals; one more reason why the Pakistan team are regarded as popular visitors to Yorkshire.

    The tour of 2006 by Pakistan will not be one that will be remembered with fondness by cricket lovers as this was the summer where the final Test of the series at The Oval ended under controversial circumstances with Pakistan forfeiting the match after ball tampering allegations. Whilst the issues surrounding this incident were debated at length and left a bad taste in the mouths of spectators, the crowds at Headingley were treated to some magnificent displays of batting from two of Pakistan’s finest batsmen. Younis Khan’s classic 173 built with grit and obdurate defence was matched by the elegance of Mohammad Yousuf’s 192; both innings giving a fair glimpse of what the Pakistan batting powerhouse could offer to the spectators and followers of the game world-wide. Of course no Pakistan Test match is devoid of drama and that is what Headingley spectators got when the visitors collapsed to 155 all out in the second innings to give England a 167-run victory.

    No other Tests were played between the two teams at Headingley since 2006 but the allure and eastern mystery that surrounds Pakistan cricket is something which many in Yorkshire have missed over the years. With the announcement of a short Test series scheduled for the summer of 2018, the long wait to see the recently crowned Champions Trophy winners will come to an end. For those wishing to experience the utter exhilaration and high-octane excitement associated with any Pakistan team, the 1st to 5th June 2018 are sure to be days to remember as Pakistan take on England at Headingley for what promises to be yet another memorable encounter.

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