This year has started very, very well for Pakistani cricket as its team is now assured of a series victory over England, who are still (just) ranked number one in the world.
Playing in the United Arab Emirates, a temporary home as visitors teams don’t want to tour the South Asian nation any more due to a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan side in 2009, the “hosts” have taken a 2-0 lead in a three test series.
The first win was as convincing as they come, but the second was as unexpected as it was sweet.England were on top for much of the play, and were set a low total of 145 to win the test in the final innings. But Pakistan’s spin bowlers wreaked havoc and England collapsed to 72 all out, their lowest ever total against Pakistan and, in the words of captain Andrew Strauss, his worst ever defeat.
“I’d struggle to think of a loss that has hurt more than this,’ he said. “These are the games that hurt the most because you feel like you've done everything you can to win the game and then you aren’t able to nail the final nail in the coffin.
“Sometimes those sort of totals are the hardest to chase because you think you are almost there. It’s easy to get caught between two stools, whether to be patient and wait for scoring opportunities to appear or take the bull by the horns.”
Left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman took six of the English wickets and was ably supported by Saeed Ajmal.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq has presided over a change of fortunes for the team. Since taking over from Salman Butt after a 3-1 defeat in England in 2010 that was overshadowed by a spot-fixing scandal involving the Asian team, the new skipper has led the team in 14 tests, losing only once, winning eight and drawing five of the other 13. It’s an impressive record, especially as seven of those wins have come in the last nine tests.
Misbah, 37, was delighted after the game.
“We were thinking that if we could just put pressure on England, we could make a match of it, so we just thought: ‘Let’s have a try.’ The bowlers did very well and they won this for us. Even in these conditions, beating the number one test team is a great effort,” he said.
The captain also expressed his wish that the win could help put the events of 2010 behind a very talented Pakistan team.
With rivals India on the receiving end of a thrashing in Australia, these are good times for cricket fans in Pakistan.