Marco Trevisiol | 2:31pm BST 16 June 2018
When Pakistan toured Australia for a 3 Test series in late 1995, the leadup to the series was dominated by the presence of Pakistani batsman and ex-captain Saleem Malik.
Earlier in the year, it was revealed multiple Australian players had reported attempts by Malik to bribe them on a tour of Asia in 1994. Subsequently Malik lost the captaincy and was dropped from the side and it appeared his career was over. But in the leadup to the tour he was cleared of wrongdoing by a Pakistan inquiry and a late addition to the Pakistan touring squad. Inevitably, Malik’s presence became a media circus and dominated all coverage of the tour.
That was a pity as in the leadup it promised to be an exciting Test series. The last time the two sides had met in Pakistan in 1994 had been a superb series. Pakistan won a thrilling opening Test by a solitary wicket while the batting of Malik himself helped ensure Pakistan maintained their series lead in the remaining two Tests. While Pakistan cricket had been full of political turmoil as symbolized by the changing status of Malik’s career, they were an enormously talented team with their opening bowling pair of Wasim Akram & Waqar Younis illustrative of the match-winning ability they had.
But Pakistan had never won a Test series in Australia and they faced an extremely strong lineup that had been given enormous self-belief after their historic victory in the West Indies earlier in the year. Particularly so with their bowling as this was the first home summer where two bowlers who would finish their careers as candidates for an All-Time Test XI were playing regularly together – Shane Warne & Glenn McGrath.
The opening Test was in Brisbane and the match was pretty decided after Australia’s 1st innings where it wasn’t just that they scored a substantial 463, but that Pakistan were totally demoralized by dropping 8 catches in the innings. Ironically enough, one of the few catches they did take saw Saleem Malik injure his hand and subsequently barely able to bat in this match and be a very minor factor in the series.
But if things were bad in the field for Pakistan, they were even worse with the bat. On the 3rd morning they were humiliatingly dismissed for just 97 (Malik was unable to bat) with Warne taking 7/23. And it wasn’t just the scoreline but the way Pakistan batted that was demoralizing as they were totally all at sea against Warne’s leg-spin with a mixture of rash sweep shots, misguided advances down the wicket and technical flaws all on display.
Following on Pakistan put in an improved effort with opener Aamir Sohail leading the way with a counterattacking effort of scoring 15 boundaries in just over 3 hours. But when on 99 and seemingly certain of a ton, Glenn McGrath was to show his ability to rise to the occasion that he demonstrated constantly over the next decade by bowling a superb yorker from around the wicket that clean-bowled the left-hand batsman.
Things descended into embarrassment for Pakistan on the 4th morning as the key wicket of Inzamam-ul-Haq occurred when he tried to hit the modest off-spinners of Mark Waugh over the top and holed out. Thereafter the rest of the batting folded meekly to Warne & McGrath with Malik being out second ball to Warne the icing on the cake. In this era of dominance there weren’t many more satisfying performances for Australia than this.
It became apparent almost immediately that the second Test in Hobart would be a much tougher contest when Wasim Akram bowled a superb opening over to opener Michael Slater that saw him dismissed for a duck. Significantly, leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed was brought into the side and bowled superbly to take 5 wickets, with his bowling a googly to deceive and bowl Greg Blewett the high point.
What should’ve been the most significant moment in the Test occurred late in the innings when Shane Warne’s toe was broken by a Waqar Younis yorker, meaning he was unable to bowl for the match. With Australia dismissed late in the day for 267, everything pointed to Pakistan dominating the rest of the match
But this was an excellent Australian side led by a resourceful and positive captain in Mark Taylor who had overcome the loss of key players to triumph in the West Indies. On the 2nd day, despite only having three main bowlers, they wore down a vulnerable Pakistan batting lineup to dismiss them for only 198. Then in the final session Australia’s openers Taylor & Slater counterattacked to reach a century partnership in well under two hours by stumps. This was a classic case of Australia turning a potentially negative situation into a winning one through positive and aggressive play.
With Australia leading by over 150 runs with 10 wickets in hand by the end of Day 2, there was only going to be one winner. Taylor went on to score a century and helped set a near impossible 375 for victory. Pakistan’s 2nd innings was only marginally better than their 1st and with some unfortunate LBW decisions going against them, Australia won the match comfortably and with it the series.
Pakistan had been highly disappointing in the first two Tests and there seemed little hope for them to be more competitive in the final Test, especially after they were thrashed in a tour match against Victoria by 8 wickets.
But the Pakistan side of this era were full of surprises and the final Test in Sydney was an exciting and gripping one. Batting first, Pakistan took almost four sessions to score 299 with Ijaz Ahmed scoring a superb 137 (underlining the folly of him not being picked in the opening Test); this seemed a modest score but on a pitch offering substantial spin for its spin attack of Mushtaq Ahmed and young offie Saqlain Mushtaq the tourists were well placed.
With Wasim Akram again dismissing Slater in his opening over and Mushtaq again reeking havoc with another 5 wicket haul, Pakistan took a 42 run 1st innings lead. But runs in the 2nd innings were even harder to get with Shane Warne again mesmerizing the tourists with his leg-spin; his dismissal of Basit Ali by bowling him around the legs on the final ball of Day 3 would become one of Warne’s most famous.
As well, after a lean first couple of Tests veteran paceman Craig McDermott was back to his best, taking 8/111 for the match. This was to be the only home summer that McDermott and McGrath would share the new ball and it felt like it was a changing of the guard. McDermott had been Australia’s best bowler of the early to mid 1990s with his masterful ability to swing and seam the ball at pace but injuries were catching up with him and McGrath was showing this summer that his achievements in the West Indies were no fluke and he was prepared to be Australia’s bowling leader for many years to come.
Australia were set 247 for victory; a gettable target but a difficult challenge against a Pakistan bowling attack full of variety and talent. Australia started promisingly but the crucial wicket of Mark Waugh – probably Australia’s best player of spin – late on Day 4 was decisive as the rest of the batting lineup was too vulnerable to handle the spin and pace challenges.
Needing 126 runs with 7 wickets in hand on the final day, Australia folded fairly quickly to lose before lunch by 74 runs. The key bowler wasn’t the spinners or Wasim Akram but Waqar Younis, who had only provided glimpses of his immense talent to date. Brought on after hardly bowling in the innings, he bowled a sensational short spell where he clean bowled three Australian batsmen with vicious full swinging deliveries that were his trademark. Indeed, the ball that dismissed Greg Blewett was a highish full toss and capped off a dismal series for the young batsman who was dropped after this Test.
Despite this disappointing end to the series, Australia could well be satisfied with a convincing 2-1 win against a talented Pakistan side. If one were to sum up the difference between the lineups, it was that Pakistan’s batting lineup was too fragile in Australian conditions to handle the skill and class of the Australian bowling attack. That they weren’t able to reach 300 once in the series is testament to the series.
Would Pakistan eventually be able to break their Australian hoodoo and win a Test series in Oz? Only time would tell on that.
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