Dawn Pakistan's most widely circulated English language newspaper.

Zimbabwe v Pakistan (3rd Test)

Reports from The Dawn
17-21 December 1998

Day 1: Foggy weather prevents start of third Test

By Ilyas Beg

FAISALABAD, Dec 17: As apprehended, first day's play of the third cricket Test between Pakistan and Zimbabwe could not be played at the Iqbal Stadium due to fog which made the visibility very poor. Not a ball could be bowled!

The two umpires Saleem Badar (Pakistan) and Doug Cowie (New Zealand) made last inspection of the ground at 3.15 pm and seeing no improvement in the conditions finally decided to call off the day's play on Thursday, 75 minutes before the scheduled closing time of 4.30 pm. In the morning, at 11.30 am the covers were removed and the first inspection of the ground was made at 11.45.

The process was repeated many times but light did not improve throughout the day. The ground was damp due to overnight dew and make-shift arrangements were made to dry it out with a light vehicle, having pieces of tarpaulin tied to it which moved over the grass pulled by that machine. The pitch had been covered with tarpaulin and there was dampness on the pitch prepared for the Test. That looks to be a slow turner. The pitch at the Iqbal Stadium had been flat and full of runs in the past. What a pity, a few hundred spectators, who turned up to watch the game, waited throughout the day for beginning of the Test and eventually returned home bitterly disappointed.

Haze and poor visibility were persisting at the time of filling this report on Thursday afternoon. If there was no rain, the condition is not likely to improve in the next four days. Very few hours play may be organised during the next four days if there was less fog and sun shined brightly from early morning.

One fails to understand the wisdom behind allocating this Test to Faisalabad in these months of the year when the fog and poor visibility is a common phenomenon in the cities of Punjab. It is all the more lamentable because the Test has been shifted to this city from Rawalpindi, where it might have been organised smoothly. In the alternative, it could have been shifted to Karachi or Hyderabad where the weather is not so unkind during winters in December.

An early start of the Test seems a remote possibility on the second day of this Test on Friday as well. The ground-staff will have to dry out the outfield with the outmoded equipment it has. Only the Pakistan team has suffered by disturbance of the Lahore and Faisalabad Tests as it could not win at those venues and come back in the series.

Neither the umpires decided to go for a toss nor the two elevens were finalised. Whenever the game is started, The Managements of both the teams are certain to include at least two specialist spinners. A result in this Test also looks a remote possibility. In that case, Zimbabwe will register its first-ever win in a Test series on foreign a soil.

Day 2: Bad weather continues, Second day's play also fogged out

By Ilyas Beg

FAISLABAD, Dec 18: If density of fog and prevailing poor weather conditions are any indication, the third and last cricket Test between Pakistan and Zimbabwe looks heading towards a 'non event'.

On the second consecutive day on Friday, the weather did not show any mercy. The whole city of Faisalabad remained wrapped up in very dense fog and sun came out for some brief periods without improving the poorest visibility ever witnessed at the Iqbal Stadium.

Umpires Saleem Badar of Pakistan and Doug Cowie of New Zealand told Dawn that they were doing what they are allowed to do under the rules. Like yesterday (Thursday), they made several inspections of the ground and did not even feel the need to remove the tarpaulin covers from the square and the pitch. Both said that they have to make day-to-day decisions according to the rules and have no authority to abandon the five-day game altogether on their own.

``Of course, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Zimbabwe Cricket Union can mutually agree to abandon the game for the rest of the days. We will have to keep on making inspections of the ground and take decisions as we have been doing up till now'', said Doug Cowie while replying to a question at the Iqbal Stadium ground.

The only development which took place in connection with the organisation of this Test was that the ``Super Sopper'', machine, which dries out the outfield within no time, was transported to Faisalabad from Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium. It reached here on Thursday morning on a truck.

Rain looks a remote possibility in the plains of Punjab which has been fully covered by thick fog during the last many days. If there is s cloud burst it can clear the fog but the Iqbal Stadium will face a problem of another nature!

The dispute between the warring groups of the Faisalabad Division Cricket Association (FDCA) has been recently settled by the intervention of the PCB. However, much time has been wasted and there has been no improvement in the playing conditions in the city.

The stadium pitch is covered by ordinary tarpaulin covers. In case of rain, the fog may clear but water can seep through and dampen the pitch and the square badly. Drying out that area will become another headache for the organisers, who have very keenly got the match shifted from Rawalpindi to this city.

Day 3: No play on 3rd successive day

By Ilyas Beg

FAISALABAD, Dec 19: The third day's play between Pakistan and Zimbabwe was also wasted by fog and bad weather at the Iqbal Stadium here on Saturday. The sun did not come out and cold wind made the weather more unbearable. Visibility remained poorer.

Umpires Saleem Badar (Pakistan) and Doug Cowie (New Zealand) made four inspections of the ground and finally decided to call off the third day's play also after their last inspection at 1 pm without a ball being bowled. They two did not feel the need of even removing the covers because start of play was not possible. All the three days of the Test have been wasted.

The two teams also did not deem it necessary to come to the stadium. The cricketers indulged in different pastimes like playing squash and tennis to while away time.

As had been asserted by the two umpires only the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the Zimbabwe Cricket Union have the authority to call of the remaining two days' play or substitute it that with a limited overs exhibition game to compensate those who have bought tickets for the Test. That can also help the organisers in making good some heavy losses in organisation of the five-day game which could not begin at the Iqbal Stadium.

Chances of an improvement in weather are very bleak. There is a general feeling of despondency among the organisers. So disgusted are the spectators that they did not bother to come to the stadium on Saturday although they had been turning up during the first two days in the hope that the Test may get under way at any time.

The cricket authorities of the two countries it is said here were engaged in negotiating to hold a limited-over match but that too depends on the weather conditions.

The umpires, will again inspect the ground on Sunday morning, the fourth day of the five-day Test severely hampered by bad weather.

Day 4: Third Test drags on without being played

By Ilyas Beg

FAISALABAD, Dec 20: Coach Dave Houghton has said that winning the first-ever Test and a series on a foreign (Pakistani) soil by his team was good but we would have felt more satisfied had fog and bad weather not spoiled the Lahore and Faisalabad Tests.

During an exclusive interview with Dawn after play on the fourth day of the third and last Test at the Iqbal Stadium here was also abandoned by the two umpires Saleem Badar (Pakistan) and Doug Cowie (New Zealand) the visiting team's coach and former Test captain Dave Houghton said:

``In view of the persistent bad weather and thick fog, there is no likelihood of any type of game being played on last day of the Test on Monday. I feel sorry for the cricket lovers of Faisalabad who have not been able to watch the Test between a fast-rising team of Zimbabwe and a strong side like Pakistan. The organisers must also have incurred huge losses. But no one has any control over vagaries of weather. At the moment I am deeply concerned about the apprehended delay in departure of my team to Zimbabwe. Flights are being cancelled due to fog. The only flight available this week for my country is the one which will leave from Karachi on Tuesday. I would love to see that all my boys join their families back home on Christmas!''

The thickest-ever fog seen in Faisalabad and plains of the Punjab after many years prompted the two umpires to immediately abandon the fourth day's play on Sunday. Although sun came out brightly for some period in the afternoon but fog began to gather soon and prospects of a limited-over game between the two teams to compensate the ticket-holders and organisers looked a remote possibility.

``Almost all the Test-playing countries will be involved in international cricket before the forthcoming World Cricket Cup in England in May but unfortunately, his team will have to be content with domestic cricket. We are trying to get some international matches against South Africa. England ``A'' team is also coming to Zimbabwe but the whole senior team cannot play against that junior side. Only a few national players can be provided some good practice of playing in a few matches'', said the grim-looking Dave Houghton.

The Zimbabwean coach seemed satisfied with the performance of his bowlers. However, he was not happy with the batting. He had written to his board that no one had been consistent enough to dominate the series. Murray Goodwin, Neil Johnson, Andy Flower, Grant Flower and a few others have given good displays in patches which brought wins to Zimbabwe against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India. However, he felt that Gavin Rennie and Craig Wishart had not been able to play to their potential.

While replying to a question, Dave Houghton said that he was impressed by consistency of Yousaf Youhanna, who had a bright future and should do well against all the teams. He termed Saqlain Mushtaq as the best bowler of his type in the world and regarded experienced Saeed Anwar as one of the best openers.

``You have a few quickest bowlers in the world in Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. However, I asked my batsmen to leave the away going deliveries and if anything was pitched up to them, they should hit that. The strategy worked very well because the Pakistani bowlers seamed and swung the ball too much on green-top wickets. Our matches against Pakistan on green-top wickets since my playing days have either been very close or have resulted in Zimbabwe's win. However, Pakistan's record on flat pitches has always been better due to superiority of its spin-bowling and mastery of the Pakistani pacemen in reverse-swing, which our bowlers like Heath Streak were trying to learn'', opined Dave Houghton.

Mr Houghton said that the Pakistan Cricket Board should have consulted him for abandoning the Faisalabad Test seeing the bad weather in a few early days because he represented the Zimbabwe Board. That would have saved the two teams from a lot of botheration. He reminded that a recent Test at Dunedin between New Zealand and India had been without a ball being bowled as the ground was inundated following rains.

Coach Javed Miandad expressed disappointment because his side did not get chances to come back into the Test series due to bad weather.

``After losing the first Test, Pakistan team could stage a comeback as it was in a driving seat at Lahore. What a pity fog robbed us of our chances to level the Test series by winning at Lahore. I also share the disappointment of Faisalabad fans and organisers. No one is more concerned and perturbed over the situation than me because Pakistan team could try to win the series in this city'', said a sad-looking Javed Miandad.

Source: Dawn
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