A last-gasp victory and after all the turbulence of ten days of Test cricket the result in the end has been somewhat predictable. For the sixth season in a row Pakistan will end up unbeaten in the desert. It has become such a state of affairs that even the local fan base has become used to it – almost taking it for granted. It bears repeating: there’s nothing wrong with being a bully at home. Perhaps being dominant at home is worth being satisfied about, rather than being something worth denigrating as somehow unworthy, somehow Indian even.
One of the more fascinating things to come out of this series – against England, and so bound to be high-profile – is how the results affect so much and yet so little: you can change your form, your reputation, your performances, but the narrative? That takes more than mere competence.
In the weeks before the series started, most headlines inevitably revolved around Mohammad Amir (him of zero first-class matches in five years) not being back in the team immediately after his ban was lifted. The rest focused on Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman – neither of whom had played a Test match in the year prior to the team selection for this series – being excluded from the squad. It almost seemed as if Pakistani cricket might as well have been in stasis during their time between the last home series against England and this one, rather than having gone through a downfall and a revival, as was actually the case. Pakistan went from a spin-led juggernaut to a team struggling without identity, which eventually rebounded thanks to domestic veterans and batsmen playing beyond their own expectations.
Of course, that is a better alternative to, say, the Australian perspective. For instance, the conversations at the start of the Australian season last year seemed to indicate there had been a memory wipe regarding Australia’s tour to the Emirates. While it has become a cliché to lampoon what happens in the Channel Nine commentary box, it was still surprising that a discussion there on cricket’s fastest centuries failed to mention Misbah-ul-Haq’s effort barely a month prior, against their own lot. At least for England, what happens against them still counts as actual cricket, even if it takes place far from their shores.