Tainted by the match fixing scandals and unable to play in their home country since 2009, you could forgive Pakistan for losing the will to fight.
After their 2-0 series win over England, Pakistan is second in the ICC Test rankings, narrowly behind South Africa.
Could Pakistan become a Test powerhouse again, nearly five years after the England spot fixing drama?
In August 2010, Pakistan played England in the fourth Test at Lord’s. Coming off a win at the Oval, the Pakistanis were pushing for a 2-2 series tie. While England won by an innings and 225 runs, the game would be remembered for Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir.
Asif and Amir were caught deliberately bowling no balls at specific moments in the Test, with captain Salman Butt also involved. After the glory years of the eighties and early nineties, Pakistan cricket had been ruined by a few out for personal gain.
The previous January, Australia had earnt a famous SCG win. Pakistan should have won comfortably entering the fourth day. Australia, trailing by 206 on first innings, was 8/286. Surely Pakistan would mop up the tail and cruise to an early finish. In a bizarre morning, wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal dropped easy catches and oddly conservative fields were set, allowing Michael Hussey to advance from 73 not out to 134 not out, setting Pakistan 176. While Hussey’s fight was no surprise, it seemed too easy. While a tricky target, Pakistan had five sessions up their sleeve. Easy, right? Pakistan surrendered in 38 overs. Much maligned off-spinner Nathan Hauritz took 5/53 as Pakistan choked for 139. Akmal was suspected of match fixing and only played another five Tests. Funnily enough, Akmal’s final Test was the Lord’s debacle.
So how did Pakistan turn it around against England?
With the exception of the second innings in Abu Dhabi, the Pakistan batsman filled their boots, with 8/523 declared in the first Test, 378 and 6/354 declared in Dubai and 234 and 355 in Sharjah. England can fall on the usual “Ashes hangover” excuse again, drawing in Abu Dhabi and losing by 178 runs (Dubai) and 127 runs (Sharjah).
Four Pakistani batsmen passed 300 runs in the three Tests: Mohammed Hafeez (380), captain Misbah-ul-Haq (352), Asad Shafiq (302) and Younis Khan (302). Spinners Yasir Shar (15 wickets at 21.53) and Shoaib Malik (11 wickets at 20.72) took 26 wickets between them.
After making the UAE a permanent home in 2010, Pakistan have won 11 and lost 3 from 21 Tests. While it’ll never replace playing in Pakistan, it’s a fair record.
More importantly, Pakistan has kept their noses clean off-field. Misbah-ul-Haq’s captaincy has helped. Misbah took over after the controversial UK 2010 tour and won 20 from 42 Tests, helped by a batting average approaching 50. They’ve since made the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup and quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup, semi-finalists in the 2010 and 2012 Twenty20 World Cups, won the 2012 Asia Cup and were runners-up in 2014. As well as winning back on field respect, Misbah has also gotten rid of the alleged religious bias from Inzamam-ul-Haq’s captaincy.
Their dominant performance against England shows a positive resurgence. Slowly, the stench from Pakistan cricket is fading, which is great for cricket.