If history is any indication, Pakistan have reason to feel optimistic as they gear up for the fourth and final Test against England today. Having suffered back-to-back defeats at Old Trafford and Edgbaston, the concluding tussle at the Oval becomes a must-win for the visitors to level the series.
While there is no denying that England will have the momentum when the captains walk out for the toss at the oldest Test centre in the country, Misbah-ul-Haq’s men would do well to gain inspiration from the fact that Pakistan have not suffered an outright defeat at The Oval for a good 49 years.
Pakistan have over the years grown to develop a liking for The Oval, ever since they recorded a historic 24-run win there to level their very first series in England in 1954. In what was a low-scoring thriller (the highest total was 164), pace ace Fazal Mahmood etched his name in history with a remarkable haul of 12/99.
The feat of 1954 could not be repeated in Pakistan’s next two tours of England. In 1962, the Oval Test saw Pakistan tumble to a heavy ten-wicket defeat in what was the final match of a series thoroughly dominated by the hosts. The result in 1967 was little different, with a tame surrender by eight wickets.
The 1974 series ended in 0-0 stalemate after the third and final Test at The Oval petered to a high-scoring draw. The highlight was Zaheer Abbas’ stroke-filled 240 – his second double century in England after his 274 at Edgbaston in 1971. Pakistan’s next date with the venue was only in 1987, when they fielded one of their strongest sides.
Pakistan have four wins in nine Tests at the Oval, and have not lost outright at the ground since 1967 (source – bt.com)
Needing only a draw to secure their first series win in England, Pakistan shut the hosts out of the contest by piling up their then highest total of 708 with Javed Miandad’s 260 leading the run glut. Following on 474 in arrears, England salvaged a draw thanks to a century from Mike Gatting, but it was enough for Pakistan to seal the rubber.
The 1992 series was locked at 1-1 when the two teams met in the decider at The Oval, Miandad now captain of Pakistan. What followed was a stellar performance from the deadly duo of Wasim Akram (6/67 in the first innings) and Waqar Younis (5/52 in the second) as Pakistan cruised to a ten-wicket win before lunch on the fourth day.
A third consecutive series win was completed in 1996 and The Oval was again the scene of the denouement as Pakistan took the three-Test series by 2-0 with a nine-wicket victory. Saeed Anwar’s free-flowing 176 gave the visitors a healthy lead, before figures of 6/78 from Mushtaq Ahmed put the writing on the wall for England.
A decade passed before Pakistan returned to the venue, for what was one of the most acrimonious Test matches ever played. Pakistan had already lost the series after defeats in the second and third Tests, but looked good for a consolation win when controversy struck after tea on the fourth day.
Impressive bowling by the Pakistani pacemen and a stylish 128 from Mohammad Yousuf had given Pakistan a massive lead of 331 runs. England were 298/4 in their second dig when Australian umpire Darrell Hair awarded five penalty runs to the total as he charged Pakistan with ball tampering.
When play was about to resume after a break due to bad light, there was no sign of the Pakistani players. It soon dawned upon the full house that captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and his team had decided not to take the field in protest of Hair’s actions. A few hours later, it was confirmed that the umpires had awarded the game to England – the first ever instance of a forfeit in Test history.
Four years later in 2010, a graver scandal – the spot-fixing incident at Lord’s – was to dog Pakistan’s tour. However, before that, the visitors rekindled their affection for The Oval. Down 2-0 in the four-Test series, they achieved a tense four-wicket win in the third Test to stay alive.
Match-winning spells of 5/63 from Wahab Riaz and 5/52 from Mohammad Amir in the first and second innings respectively were complemented by an unbeaten 92 from Azhar Ali, which ensured that Pakistan’s target was limited to 148. Pakistan’s record at The Oval now read four wins and three defeats (including the forfeit) in nine Tests.
In what promises to be an exciting finish to the 2016 series, Pakistan will be up against an uplifted English side while the hosts will look to avoid a fifth outright defeat to Pakistan at The Oval. It remains to be seen what transpires on the hallowed turf of the iconic ground that hosted the inaugural Test in England back in 1880.