UK tour whets appetite for Aussie adventure

09 September 2016

Yasir Shah is just one of a host of Pakistan drawcards // Getty

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Pakistan are the world's top Test team and the toast of cricket - and they're Down Under very soon

About the Writer:

Chris Stocks is a freelance cricket writer based in London. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent and London Evening Standard.

Pakistan have finally left the UK after a 10-week tour that can only go down as a triumph for the game of cricket.

That's a stark contrast to their departure in 2010, when they beat a hasty retreat following the spot-fixing scandal that tarnished the sport.

The start to this tour was, inevitably, overshadowed by talk of what had happened six years earlier, particularly as Mohammad Amir, one of the central protagonists of the scandal, was back in Pakistan's ranks and ready to make his Test return at Lord's, where he had delivered no-balls to order at the behest of Salman Butt, his former captain.

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However, that chatter soon gave way to the cricket, especially when a very different kind of captain in Misbah-ul-Haq led the way with a century at Lord's that set up a memorable win for his side.

This tour will forever be remembered for those push-up celebrations on the Lord's turf, first by Misbah on reaching three figures and then the whole team after they had completed victory on the fourth day.

It will also be remembered for a brilliant Test series that, after Lord's, saw England come back with comprehensive wins at Old Trafford and Edgbaston, before one final twist at The Oval, where Pakistan squared the series 2-2 to go to No1 in the world Test rankings.

They may have fared less well without the experienced heads of Misbah and Younis Khan in the one-day series, Pakistan losing 4-1. Yet they finished the tour as they started it, with a win in the one-off T20 international at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Wahab leads Pakistan to T20 delight

For Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan's effervescent wicketkeeper and T20 captain, it has been the trip of a lifetime.

"The whole tour was very good," he said. "We were great in Test cricket and unfortunately we didn't win the ODI series.

"But I said we wanted to finish on a high note and I'm so glad we managed that."

Pakistan's next away assignment later this year is in Australia, where the centrepiece of their visit will be the three-Test series against Steve Smith's side that starts at the Gabba on December 15.

If Australia had thoughts that Misbah and his team would be pushovers, then their performances in England have surely pushed those out of their minds.

There will be added spice given it will be the side just deposed as No.1 taking on those who have usurped them at the top of the rankings.

Sarfraz, though, is confident Pakistan can hold onto that status when they reach Australian shores.

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"You know our Test team is very settled," he said. "All the players have been together five or six years and we've worked really hard to get that No.1 position and we'll work hard to stay there."

Whether or not Pakistan are still No.1 by the time they arrive in Australia will depend on the results of their own series before that against West Indies in the UAE and in New Zealand, as well as Australia v South Africa and India's home series against New Zealand and England.

Whatever the rankings, though, Australian fans can expect an entertaining Test series against a side that can still be occasionally flaky but more often than not are operating at a consistency level not seen in their predecessors.

Moreover, Pakistan's tour of England was notable for the goodwill the side generated across the UK and Ireland during their time here and the convivial spirit between both sides, especially during the Test series.

Quick Single: Australia aim to end tour on high

At the end of their final press conference of the tour in Manchester late on Wednesday night, held by Sarfraz and man-of-the-match Wahab Riaz, one member of the English press got up and made an announcement thanking Pakistan for their help on this tour and for being such good guests.

The words were warmly applauded by all those present and given the cynical natural of journalists, especially we English ones, it was an unusual occurrence.

But this has been an unusual northern summer as far as Pakistan tours normally go – not one whiff of controversy, a likeable team playing good hard cricket that was not only closely-contested but full of drama, too.

Australia are lucky to have them next.

Meg Lanning Steve Smith

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