SOME THINGS in life defy logic, others history, but rarely are both achieved with such unexpected drama as they were in England's win over Pakistan in the final moments of the final day of the final Test here yesterday. To beat Pakistan anywhere in a Test series is worthy of fanfare, but to do so by six wickets in Karachi, where the home side had never been beaten, must rank among the greatest of overseas victories.
For Nasser Hussain's team, the moment of glory - an inside edge for two by Graham Thorpe as twilight faded into night - achieved what no England side had done here since 1961, when Ted Dexter led his men to a 1-0 victory in a three-match series. In fact, it was only the second time England have won a Test in Pakistan, long-term proof that this was an achievement to rank alongside beating the All Blacks in the Otago mud.
"This series is the most remarkable of all the recent wins we have achieved," said Hussain, who appeared as emotionally drained as he was after last summer's victory over the West Indies. "To come here and win like this beats anything I've ever been involved in." Considering the unpromising situation England found themselves in after the first day, when Pakistan were 292 for 3, the turn-around was astonishing and Hussain's claim is not an exaggeration. Although the home side's brainless batting had much to do with it, England never gave up.
With an almost undetectable stealth, firstly through Michael Atherton's belligerent century and then by the perseverance of Ashley Giles and Darren Gough, a spark was created, which, when ignited by Graham Thorpe, saw England home.
"When I read the local press on the last morning, I though we had a good chance," said Hussain. "The pressure was all on them as they'd never lost here."
The manner of victory on the final day, after England had taken Pakistan's last seven wickets for 87 in 46.3 overs, came from a run chase of four runs an over, calmly overseen by Thorpe, who made an unbeaten 64.
Afterwards, Thorpe likened the experience of playing in the rapidly fading light to "playing for Wrecclesham in the Flora Doris trophy." For those not acquainted with the local leagues of the Surrey Downs, it was a eight- ball over competition which, according to Thorpe, was played in near darkness when he was a youngster.
Sharing a stand of 91 with Graeme Hick, after Atherton and Marcus Trescothick had got England off to a brisk start, the left-handed Thorpe struck just four boundaries as Moin Khan set his field deep in an attempt to prevent England scoring the 176 runs that stood between them and history.
On a pitch where the attacking shot was loaded with risk it was a mistake, for it allowed Thorpe and Hick to keep up the rate in singles. Barely a shot was played in anger until Hussain arrived in near darkness with 20 runs needed and an idea that the game had to be finished promptly.
If Moin's field placings were not without controversy, his almost constant efforts at time-wasting were in direct conflict with the spirit of the game. Changing the field constantly - coupled with the fact the sightscreen had to be moved with England's left and right- hand combination at the crease - Pakistan bowled just seven overs in the 37 minutes to tea.
During the break, Moin was summoned by the match referee, Ranjan Madugalle, and reminded that as captain he is responsible for keeping the spirit of the game alive. In total, Moin was warned on three occasions for time- wasting by umpire Steve Bucknor, though after tea his team did approach the 13 overs per hour, more or less the norm for both sides throughout this series.
Even so, the warnings created some confusion. Under the new law changes made by MCC, the umpire can award a five-run penalty after the first warning under Law 42.9. However, such punishment was not applicable here as it had not been agreed in the playing conditions set out for this series. …