The Unpredictables – Part V – 1980s: The Asian Cricket Tigers Take on the World, Episode 2

By Fazal Abbas

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Pakistan as a country has been through a number of highs and lows since traumatic partition in 1947 and its cricket has followed the similar pattern, showing how this sport is embedded in social, political and cultural facets of the country. Initially dispersed, unrecognised, underfunded and weak, Pakistan’s cricket team grew to become a major force in world cricket. If cricket is known for its glorious uncertainties, Pakistan team is even more renowned for its unpredictability. In this series of blogs we shall dig into social, political, cultural and sporting history of cricket in Pakistan.


Read previous parts here:


Part I – 1940s: Partition and Founding Stones of Cricket in Pakistan (1947 – 1950)


Part II – 1950s: Pakistan announces itself to cricket world (1951 – 1960)


Part III – 1960s: The Lost Decade (1961 – 1970)


Part IV – 1970s: Revival of Pakistan cricket (1971 – 1980) [Episode 1, Episode 2]


Part V – 1980s: The Asian Cricket Tigers Take on the World [1981 – 1990], Episode 1


The return of Khan and the most famous shot in the history of the cricket


After expensive and lengthy treatment Imran returned to the national team in tournament to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Victoria Cricket Association, where he partnered Wasim Akram for the first time. This began the second great blowing partnership of Imran’s career.


Wasim Akram, the greatest left arm bowler of all time


Meanwhile, one-day internationals had become a regular feature of cricket and when cricket came to the desert in Sharjah U. A. E., Pakistan and India met regularly before highly partisan expatriate crowds. Zaheer had retired. Imran Khan was the captain again.


It is said that the game of cricket is never over till the end and it truly has provided some great thrills but not more than Miandad’s last ball six against India that won Pakistan the match and drove the Pakistani fans into euphoria. It was the final of Austral-Asia Cup in 1986 at Sharjah. It is possibly the best remembered six in cricket history and the most rewarding one financially for Miandad.


[Javed Miandad’s famous last ball six of Chetan Sharma

Javed Miandad famous last ball Six of Chetan… by dirvalley


The most important and exhilarating year of Pakistan’s cricket


Pakistan now faced what would become the most elated year in the nation’s cricket history. Imran was about to embark on a cricketing journey that would make or break his reputation as a player and as a captain.


Mighty WI toured Pakistan in 1986-87. The test series ended in 1-1 draw and Pakistan lost the ODI series 4-1. The stand out moment of this series was when very talented Salim Malik came out to bat with broken arm in 2nd innings of first test match at Faislabad. With plaster on his left arm, Malik batted only with right arm and hung on for a 32 run last wicket partnership with Wasim Akram who made an important half century and allowed Pakistan to win the match.


[Salim Malik comes out to bat with a broken arm]


Cricket’s first decisive step towards putting an end to the age-old accusations that had marred home umpiring came on November 7, 1986, when Indian umpires VK Ramaswamy and Piloo Reporter stood in second Test against WI in Lahore. The move was plotted by Imran, who was sick of the criticism after every series in Pakistan. A few years later ICC realised that that’s the way forward when neutral umpires started officiating the matches.


India did not return the compliment of neutral umpires when Pakistan toured India in 1986-87, lasting 2 months in blistering hot weather. This was a difficult series because of the renewed border tensions between the two countries, leading to occasional crowd troubles, in which Pakistan boundary fielders were hit by stones and fruit. In the 4th test they took to wearing helmets in the deep to protect themselves.


Pakistan took the ODI series 5-1. India’s one win came fortuitously from Abdul Qadir, who ran himself out when the scores were level off the last ball. In the excitement, he had forgotten the rules. Pakistan would have won if he had kept his wicket intact.


The first four tests conformed to the recent pattern and were high scoring draws. The fifth and deciding test match at Bangalore, in which India chased 221 for a 4th innings victory, was one of the greatest in history. Worried by vanishing crowds, the authorities left the pitch underprepared to produce some kind of result. As a consequence, Pakistan’s selectors made a crucial last minute decision, with Iqbal Qasim coming in for Abdul Qadir. After many seesaw moments Pakistan eventually set a target of 221 runs to win for India on now a spiteful pitch. They almost got there as Gavaskar gave a masterclass in footwork and timing against the Pakistan spinners. He had reached 96 when Iqbal produced a ball which bounced violently and had him caught at slip. Withstanding a late desperate charge from Roger Binny, Pakistan won a gripping match by 16 runs. It was only Pakistan’s third overseas series win, and on return the team received extravagant public congratulations and welcome with crowd that stretched from airport to the heart of Lahore city.


Iqbal Qasim (Source: ESPN Cricinfo)


The team then went to England and there was noticeable tension between the teams, and the English media were nastier than usual. Arriving at Heathrow the team was humiliatingly held up and made to stand aside, with other passengers looking on, while sniffer dogs went through their luggage. It was obvious that it was not going to be an easy tour.


Pakistan lost the ODI Texaco Trophy narrowly, by 2 matches to 1, inspite of a century and two fifties from Miandad.  The first two tests were drawn mainly because of rain but the sun was shining at Headingly and England won the toss and decided to bat on a wicket that had pace and bounce and a great deal of seam movement. Imran struck immediately and by lunch Pakistan had seized control of the match. It was a control they were not going to let go off. Pakistan bowled out England for 134 and at one stage for 31 for 5. The Pakistani fast bowlers, Imran, Wasim, and Mohsin Kamal were on a rampage, getting three wickets each. Pakistan went on to make 353 with help of Salim Mailik’s 99. It was a commanding lead and Imran was in his element as he ripped through England taking 7 wickets for 40. Pakistan won by an innings and 18 runs. England had been outplayed.


Wasim Akram bowls, England v Pakistan, 1st Test, Old Trafford, 3rd day, June 6, 1987 (Source: ESPN Cricinfo)


Pakistan manager Ahsan Haseeb talks to captain Imran Khan, August 5, 1987 (Source: ESPN Cricinfo)


In the final test at The Oval, Pakistan batted for two and a half days, making 708 with Miandad scoring 260 and Salim Malik 102, while Imran helped himself to a blistering 118. It was a mammoth total and England folded up, this time to spin and were bowled out for 240. Qadir, the leg spinner, the magician and the world’s best taking seven for 96. England followed on but helped by some dour batting and a few dropped catches were able to hold out for draw.


This was the first Pakistan team to overcome England in England. Imran was now at his Zenith, indisputably the world’s best all-rounder. Everyone expected him to lead the team to victory in the forthcoming World Cup – the first to be held on home soil.


Cricket World Cup 1987


Before a ball was bowled, the 1987 World Cup was a massive victory for Pakistan. In alliance with India they wrested the competition from English hands and shifted it to the Indian subcontinent. Both countries had to over-come deep seated prejudice about their ability to finance and organise a major international tournament. Nur Khan and Salve worked successfully on their respective governments to release foreign exchange for the World Cup project and invest in infrastructure. Reliance Industries of India put up Rs 70 million which enabled BCCP & BCCI to promise 50% more prize money that their English rivals. Another major objection by England of early twilight in Indian sub-continent was put to rest by reducing ODI to 50 overs a side than 60. The Indo-Pak bid won by 16 votes to 12. The fourth World Cup was more widely watched, more closely fought and more colourful than any of its three predecessors held in England. Significantly, it used neutral umpires.


In Pakistan expectations were immense. Led by Imran, they had their best-ever ODI side to-date. Pakistan played all their group matches at home, gaining five victories out of six. Amid overpowering national expectations, Pakistan took on Australia in the semi-final at Lahore. Australia batted solidly, until Imran’s second spell produced 3 for 17. Steve Waugh took 18 of the last over of the innings bowled by inexperienced left-arm seamer, Saleem Jaffer, which turned out to be difference in the end. Pakistan once again succumbed to the pressure of a semi-final. Chasing 267, Miandad and Imran resurrected the innings after an early collapse, but once the former was out it was a matter of time before the innings folded. Craig McDermott took the maiden 5-wicket haul of the tournament at Lahore to kill a nation’s dream and Pakistan lost the match by 18 runs. Public was utterly disappointed. Immediately after the tournament Sarfraz Nawaz, now a member of parliament, laid charges that match had been thrown to facilitate a betting coup. Players took him to court but action eventually died due to delay of judicial system. It set a pattern for the future, in which Pakistan defeats were assumed to be the result of match-fixing.


Pakistan vs Australia semi-final 1987 World Cup

Pakistan vs Australia SEMI FINAL 1987 WORLD CUP by f100000713276688

Australia, winners of world cup 1987


It was not perfect moment but Imran nevertheless chose to retire from cricket. The death of his mother Shaukat, from cancer in 1985, had had a profound effect on him and there already intimations that his life was to involve more than cricket. As was now customary, Miandad became captain.

See More: The Unpredictables – Part V – 1980s: The Asian Cricket Tigers Take on the World, Episode 3