Twenty fourth of July was a red letter day for test cricket as the test match between Australia and Pakistan turned out to be a cracker of a contest with the match going down to the wire before Pakistan finally was able to cross the finishing line and win the match. The victory also made me remember those heady days for Pakistan's cricket in the 90's, when they won the world cup and were a force to reckon with. In this article, I would look at the test match played between Australia and Pakistan at Karachi in 94. Just like the test at Leeds, it went down to the wire and the significance of that test was, before winning at Leeds, it was the last time Pakistan ever won a match in a live series against Australia!
Back in 1994, I was only a ten year old and wasn't a huge follower of cricket. Those were the days, when West Indies was still at top of the tree in test cricket, England was almost as bad as Zimbabwe, Lara had just broken the world record for the highest individual score in test cricket, the two W's were feared by every batsmen and of course, there wasn't anything called T/20 cricket!
1994 was also the year, when the Australian cricket team was going through a transitional period as their inspirational captain and the highest run-getter at that time, Border had just retired from cricket, Geoff Marsh wasn't around as wasn't Dean Jones or Merv Hughes who, was reportedly dropped for his lack of fitness. Yes, a few old-heads like Boon, Healy, the older Waugh and McDermott were still around, but the side had a youthful look to it. Afghan had established himself in the side, Warne was a huge star and there were new faces like Beven, Angel and a a lean looking McGrath. Yes, we are talking about Glenn McGrath, the one who went onto to become a great bowler, but that was the time, when he was a unknown quantity and bowlers like Angel and Holdsworth were said to be ahead of him in the pecking order.
On the other hand, Pakistan had lots of seasoned campaigners like their captain Saleem Malik, Sohail, Anwar, little Mushie and the much feared, the two W's. I do remember there was a bit of hype surrounding that series in Pakistan. Yes, Australia had a few changes in their side yet, had a formidable team. Pakistan had won the world cup and was successful in England. It seemed like a contest for the number two slot in test rankings behind the West Indies.
As expected, Pakistan were the favourites to win the series as they had the home advantage and the most feared opening pair of bowlers at that time, Younis and Akram. Australia won the toss and Taylor electing to bat first on a track in subcontinent was of no surprise. Australia found themselves in a bit of trouble as Akram and the little Mushie threatened to run through Australia's batting line-up, but thanks to the rescue act done by the older Waugh and Beven, they were able to post a score of over 300. After a good start given by the ever present opening pair of Sohail and Anwar, Pakistan faltered and were bowled out for a score of 256 to give Australia the vital first innings lead. Interestingly for Australia, their front-line seamers were Angel and McGrath as McDermott wasn't playing in the match, but both greenhorns bowled well and shared five wickets between them. Over the years, I have read a few reports of that series in Pakistan and as per those reports, both Angel and McGrath bowled well in that series, but Healy and Taylor dropped some easy chances of their bowling. In fact, it is said that Mark Waugh got so frustrated with those drop catches and unhelpful tracks for the seamers that in one of the tests, he just banged everything short and even hit Sohail flush on his face and got Zahid Fazal out.
Anyway, coming back to the match, Australia was said to be cruising in the second innings with both Boon and Mark Waugh taking the formidable opposition attack to the cleaners, but those were the days, when Younis and Akram were unbelievably good with the old ball and once Afghan was sent back to the pavilion by the deadly Younis, it opened the flood gates for Pakistan, as Akram took five wickets in just one spell and was ably supported by Younis who, added couple more wickets to his tally and finished with four wickets in the second innings. Interestingly, after Afghan got out, not a single player reached double figures! Oh! it would have been great to watch Younis and Akram ripping apart a batting line up that had class players like Waugh twins, Boon and co. I would surely have to say a bit more about Boon too as he made a fighting hundred. I always believe that Boon didn't get his due recognition, though he played many fighting knocks against great pace attacks of West Indies and Pakistan.
So, Pakistan was set a target of 315 by Australia. Now, chasing 315 in the fourth innings is never easy and it becomes even more difficult, when there is a certain bowler called Warne in the opposition ranks. As expected, he started to weave a web around Pakistan's batsmen on a pitch that is said to have helped the spinners from the fourth day onwards. Pakistan though, at the end of the fourth day was well placed at 155 for 3, but with Warne around, a collapse can always be expected and soon they started losing wickets. Warne got yet another five wicket haul to his name and what made it more special was that newbie McGrath had a hamstring injury and his spinning partner May too was injured, but Warne carried the attack on his shoulders and bought Australia to the brink of victory.
So, with Warne bowling another great spell on a turning track, Pakistan looked dead and buried as the score read 258 for 9. Yes the fatty Inzy was still there, but to support him, there was only little Mushie left and he was a rabbit with the bat in hand. Most journalists and even a few players who played in that match reckon Pakistan could have been dismissed for a score of even less than 250, but for a top notch captain like Taylor taking the strange decision of going for the new ball on a turning track with one of his main bowlers McGrath suffering from a hamstring injury. Pakistan did take advantage of it by going after Angel and Steve Waugh who, had to bowl with the new ball as McGrath wasn't on the field. I wonder how could Warne have agreed to give away the ball though he was bowling a magical spell!
Latif on that decision,
"Surprisingly Taylor asked for the new ball, and that turned into a sort of advantage for us. I managed to hit a few boundaries off Angel and Steve Waugh, and all that pressure that had built up was released. It suddenly seemed that the wicket had turned into a batter-friendly one. Before I was trapped by Steve Waugh, I managed to make 35 of the 52-run eighth-wicket partnership"
Anyway, with just one wicket left and only the rabbit Mushie to support Inzy, it didn't look like the decision of taking the new ball would cost the OZ team, but there was another twist in the tail, as the rabbit Mushie started to look confident and Pakistan edged closer to the target. Aussies just couldn't break the last wicket partnership and from nowhere Pakistan needed only four runs to win, but Warne is said to have bowled one great last delivery from around the wicket and almost bowled Inzy. Inzy was out of his crease too, but Healy missed the stumping chance and it went for four byes as Pakistan won the match by one wicket!
Healy on that stumping,
"From round the wicket Warney bowled a beauty and Inzamam, I'll never forget it, went to work it through the leg side, his feet came together, and the ball spun through him, between bat and pad. I thought it was going to bowl him and got a bit stiff with my gloves and body - if your eyes don't stay with the ball as it spins past the bat, you are in trouble. The height wasn't a problem, but my glove didn't move to the ball, so when it missed the off stump it buzzed low between my legs and down to the boundary. Four byes! It wasn't an easy stumping but I should have made it, especially in that pressure situation. I couldn't believe it. While my team-mates choked on appeals and held their heads, in total despair I kicked over the stumps"
"They took out the midwicket trying to tempt me to step out and hit through that region. I tried to do exactly that, but completely missed the ball"
I would surely have liked to watch that match as it was a match that had lots of twists and turns and went down to the wire. It would have been great to watch the two W's bowling in their pomp and Warne spinning a web around the batsmen. Unfortunately, the match as well as the series perhaps would be remembered for those match fixing allegations leveled at Malik by May, Warne and Junior, but lest we forget that both teams played a cracker of a match at Karachi.