x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

A history of animosity between Pakistan and England

The cricketing sides have never got on, creating a feisty back-drop to this series on neutral territory. Osman Samiuddin looks back at the tempestuous Tests between the nations.

Inzamam-ul-Haq, left, led his team off the field at The Oval in 2005, after clashing with umpire Darrell Hair, right.
Inzamam-ul-Haq, left, led his team off the field at The Oval in 2005, after clashing with umpire Darrell Hair, right.

At one time, around the middle of the last decade, it had become possible (just about) to try to explain how contests between England and Pakistan had as much toxicity spilling out of them as they did.

It has always been a rivalry unlike any other in cricket, creating heat from a concoction of the history of a colonial past and a context which places, in the words of the sportswriter Simon Barnes, two of the most culturally divergent sides in cricket across the field from the other.

Considerable duplicity from both sides hasn't helped. Pakistan used to happily put the English up on a pedestal, only to want to shoot them down off it.

The English, meanwhile, assumed an easy moral superiority; their umpires could not possibly be biased as the Pakistani ones were, their bowlers could never tamper with balls as Pakistanis did and lately, just maybe, that their players could never be found guilty of corruption as Pakistanis had been.

Yet their umpires were, their bowlers did and at least one player was.

And so until the end of 2005, few series between the two (1954, 1971 and 1996 were exceptions) passed without such friction being generated that at times, long-term ties seemed untenable.

But at that time, ahead of England's first challenge after their 2005 Ashes triumph, it seemed we may enter a new, quieter phase.

At least one neutral umpire in a Test had been present since 1992 and in 2002, all Tests everywhere had two.

Ball tampering was less an issue now that the English had finally begun to reverse swing as well.

And both sides had a generation of players born late enough in the last century for the whole business of colonialism to not be much of a business at all.

There remains a permanent residue of distrust, of course, but in no way did the desire to beat the former masters England, for example, drive a new generation of Pakistan players as it had done Javed Miandad, Imran Khan and others before them.

But it was with that series in the winter of 2005 that it began to feel as if the rivalry had become a living, throbbing beast in itself, regardless of the players, the umpires, even history.

Between the players there was, if not amicable, then a sanitised air and yet, variously, there was an on-field explosion during play at Faisalabad, a run-out of Inzamam-ul-Haq that could have set the series on fire and Shahid Afridi caught scuffing the pitch that could have done the same.

The two series since have simply furthered this sense, that England and Pakistan could duel in a charity game in Switzerland with life-size mannequins instead of players and still spark off war somewhere on the planet.

The one-sided 2006 series was played mostly in good spirits until at The Oval, Pakistan clashed with Darrell Hair and forfeited the Test. And nobody needs reminding what the 2010 series became a backdrop for.

It is this curse that cannot be escaped in the build-up every time the sides meet, that something, anything might break out at any time.

Already there is enough still bubbling over from 2010, not least when Wahab Riaz runs in to bowl to Jonathan Trott, so that the neutrality of the venue, and a relatively sterile atmosphere, may have no effect.

Such is this beast that it may not be doused even by the cool of two level-headed leaders in Misbah-ul-Haq and Andrew Strauss, two who normally would provide most hope of emulating their predecessors Majid Khan and Tony Lewis (former Cambridge and Glamorgan teammates) in 1973 or Wasim Akram and Mike Atherton (former Lancashire teammates) from 1996 in overseeing an incident-free contests.