This match was momentous for resulting in Zimbabwe’s first overseas Test victory, which ultimately led to their first ever series win (though they had won the one-off home Test against India earlier in the season).
Zimbabwe had their best years of Test cricket during this period and this match, played between November 27 and 30, 1998, undoubtedly remains the finest moment of their international cricket history. This was Zimbabwe’s second tour to Pakistan, having first played there in 1996-97 when they lost the two-Test series 1-0.
The Arbab Niaz Stadium in Peshawar was the venue for the first Test of the 1998-99 rubber, this time a proper three-Test series. The visiting captain Alistair Campbell inserted the hosts on a grassy wicket – both teams picked four pacers each.
Ijaz Ahmed handled Zimbabwe’s four-pronged seam attack with a mix of patience and aggression, as he scored a stylish 87 to lead Pakistan’s showing on the first day. Batting at number three, Ijaz shared 118 runs for the fourth wicket with Yousuf Youhana, rescuing Pakistan from 92/3.
Youhana ended the day unbeaten on 74, with Pakistan at 271/6. But he could add only one run more on the second day as the remaining wickets fell in quick succession. Pakistan were all out for 296, Heath Streak and Mpumelelo Mbangwa taking 4/93 and 3/40 respectively.
Waqar Younis, who was playing after eight months, then combined with fellow paceman Wasim Akram to reduce Zimbabwe to 63/4. Younis removed Murray Goodwin and Andy Flower in successive balls. The score further slipped to to 115/6 before Neil Johnson proceeded to play an astonishing innings.
Coming in at number six, he smashed his first and only Test hundred and remained unbeaten on 107 as Zimbabwe ended the day at 218/7. The seventh wicket stand between Johnson and Streak fetched 103 runs with Streak making only 24 of those.
However Johnson could not add to his overnight score on the third day and Zimbabwe folded for 238, trailing by 58. Johnson faced only 117 balls and hit 16 fours. Akram took 5/52 while Younis scalped 4/78.
In the second dig, Pakistan suffered a collapse of the worst kind as Zimbabwe’s seamers completely flattened the hosts’ top-order. With a handy lead in place, few expected Pakistan to put up such a woeful display.
Henry Olonga in particular was deadly – he took three wickets in just ten balls (those of captain Aamir Sohail, Azhar Mehmood, Inzamam ul-Haq) while Streak removed Ijaz as Pakistan crashed to 15/4. Mbangwa then joined the party, clean bowling Youhana and Moin, leaving the hosts at a pathetic 41/6, the lead not even 100 yet.
Henry Olonga (right) bowled a fabulous spell to spark Pakistan’s second innings collapse (source – tribuneindia.com)
The Zimbabweans were euphoric even as the Pakistani players and fans watched in utter disbelief. Regular opener Saeed Anwar batted at number seven due to a stomach upset and he and Akram attempted a revival with a 57-run stand for the seventh wicket, both making 31 each.
But Mbangwa (3/23) removed Akram to get his third wicket and the last four wickets fell for just five runs, Olonga (4/42) accounting for Anwar as his fourth victim. Pakistan were shot out for 103 in under 37 overs and Zimbabwe needed just 162 for a historic win.
Akram ejected Gavin Rennie early, but any hope of an outside chance was quashed by an 81-run stand between Grant Flower and Murray Goodwin for the second wicket. Resuming at 70/1 at the start of day four, Zimbabwe confidently marched towards victory.
Akram took two more wickets but Goodwin stayed firm at the crease, eventually remaining unbeaten on 73 as Zimbabwe reached 162/3 in the first session itself, winning by seven wickets and achieving their first ever Test match win overseas (and their third win overall).
In what was a battle of the pacemen, Zimbabwe had outclassed Pakistan. Indeed, spinners bowled only 14 out of the nearly 240 overs in the Test. Johnson was named man of the match for his game-changing knock.
The second Test at Lahore was a rain-affected draw while the third Test at Faisalabad was abandoned without a ball being bowled, thus giving Zimbabwe their first series win. Sohail was left fuming following his team’s abject batting collapse and went on to blame the selectors and the curators as well.
But the truth was that a fast-improving Zimbabwean team had got the result it deserved. Just six years later, Zimbabwean cricket plunged into a crisis and the heydays of the late nineties became a distant past.
Today, Zimbabwe are struggling to find their feet as a Test team and this memorable win remains their most significant success. Given that it came against a full-strength top-level team away from home, the victory was nothing short of marvellous.