For now Pakistan can cherish this moment of rare success over England

The shame of it is what follows this rare success. Pakistan's next Tests, anticlimactically, are in Sri Lanka in May and June. After that there is nothing. Audio: Misbah-ul-Haq

Umar Gul and Mohammed Hafeez celebrate the fall of England.
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Even in a history as rich with improbable results as Pakistan's, it might be difficult to locate something as improbable as this, their fifth-ever whitewash (in a series of three or more Tests).

A series win was not an outlandish pick, but this?

Possibly only Pakistan's first series result in England in 1954, a 1-1 draw for a side in only their second-ever Test series against the top team at the time, matches it. Certainly none of the other four whitewashes, mostly against weakened sides, come close.

And yet not even the score line as a whole is as astounding as the nature of the results from which it was wrought.

The first Test in Dubai is the only one that is really comprehensible; England were not just undercooked, they were still frozen and Pakistan, already tuned in after a busy schedule, were sharp.

But Abu Dhabi and then Dubai again? Defending 145 in one, in which you've barely hung on for most of the game? And then, to be bowled out for under 100, drop chances regularly and still win comfortably?

That is something altogether different, extraordinary and unique.

In fact, it points to the tightness and resilience of this Pakistan side, bound together by Misbah-ul-Haq.

It must help that so many of their players, from Taufeeq Umar and Mohammad Hafeez, through Younis Khan, down to Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, even Aizaz Cheema have been through difficult times in their careers, in not being picked until very late, being dropped too often, in being injured, in being banished.

And there is hardy old Misbah himself, a figure without parallel in Pakistan's cricket history.

To be 36, forgotten and on the verge of retirement in the summer of 2010 and to be here now, the same expression-free mien, is perhaps the most improbable achievement of it all.

What he has done is mould a side that is quite like his own batting. It is a smart side, at once savvy and battle-hardened and mostly content with playing attritional cricket.

But, as with his abrupt one-kneed loft over long on or midwicket, or his paddles and reverse sweeps, the side is possessed with the technicolour bursts of the best Pakistan sides.

The shame of it is what follows now.

Pakistan's next Tests, anticlimactically, are in Sri Lanka in May and June.

After that there is nothing until Tests against Zimbabwe and South Africa early next year, the next real challenge.

By then, Misbah will be close to 39 and others such as Younis, Ajmal and Abdur Rehman are also getting on.

In any case, a year is a particularly long time in Pakistan's cricket, and a stretch of inactivity unravels the tightness of a side like little else.

And so we wonder whether this win could be the start of something grand for Pakistan, or is more likely the final, beautiful and entirely unexpected gift of a brief period which should have been Pakistan's darkest, but turned instead into one of the most remarkable.

For now we can only marvel at it.


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