Guest Section – Revisiting Pakistan’s Champions Trophy campaign

  Before the commencement of the long-awaited ICC Champions Trophy, Pakistan was a team struggling for direction, representing a nation fighting for identity. The country has long been at the mercy of erratic politics and incessant terrorism that has left its sporting venues deserted and neglected for a major part of the last decade.

  Inner turbulence has been imitated in the way the national team has played its cricket. It is hard to build structures and promote stability when neither exists in the society. It is a challenge to make and execute plans when the nation has stooped to the lowest levels of confidence. At this point, everything is transitory and vague.

  Entering this exceptionally competitive tournament, Pakistan were the nethermost team; the rank-outsiders among the giants of modern cricket. Underdogs, to be precise. A flattering ranking, a newbie skipper, injury concerns to major stars returning to the squad and depleting resources suggested anything beyond a group-stage exit was highly improbable, if not out of question.

  The harrowing defeat first up against India in front of a jam-packed Edgbaston house took that out of proportion as well. The script was being followed to the T as far as Pakistan’s campaign was concerned. It was so traumatic that it triggered a couple of abrupt changes: Junaid Khan replacing a diminishing Wahab Riaz and Fakhar Zaman, a debutant, succeeding an out-of-touch Ahmed Shehzad.

  When things slide downhill briskly, writing Pakistan off is the easiest option. However, that comes up with its own perils as three cricketing titans, South Africa, England and India, found out later. The blunt, dicey changes proved a blessing in disguise, straightaway. The drubbing received in the initial game served as a motivating burst for this team, full of young and lively blood.

  The rejuvenated pace attack set about for newer adventures, showcasing composure and spitting fire as it came to terms with some of the best batting suits in world cricket. In a rain-affected match, Pakistan comprehensively clobbered South Africa – the No.1 ODI team at that fleck of history – and the western part of the subcontinent began finding its long-lost voice.

     Underrated Pakistan not just entered their first Champions Trophy final, but also subdued holders India to cap a memorable campaign (source – gettyimages/hindustantimes.com) 

  Gradually the notes improved, the tunes enhanced and the verses concluded. From these came determination, and from that, came expression. The world was too focused on the megastars, not realizing that the boys in green had begun scribbling a narrative of their own. Four days later, Pakistan brushed past Sri Lanka in what was to be an agonizingly close potential quarter-final.

  The warning bell had sounded. The predictably unpredictable greenshirts had emerged out of thin air. The bruised tiger was finally cornered and ready to assault. Extraordinarily and unbelievably, Pakistan marched into the semis, leaving the cricketing world bewildered.

  A fiery opener in Zaman was discovered, whose flamboyance and hit-everything approach peeled off the early shakiness and perfectly complemented Azhar Ali’s solidity. In Hasan Ali, they found a warrior who defied all odds and plucked out crucial wickets when they were needed the most.

  A fine leader, in the shape of Sarfraz Ahmed, materialized out of the pandemonium, marshalling his troops and conducting his orchestra with mastered skill as the flames erupted behind the old pavilion. The dignity of the remainders brought hope and the gallantry of the incoming promise. The overwhelming momentum and victory-seeking lust blew away the English as well.

  England, who happened to be joint favorites, were trounced at the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff and ousted from their own backyard. It was as immaculate and flawless a performance as cricket has ever witnessed. It was the other way around: unpredictably predictable. Pakistan breathed fire again.

  “We certainly want to come out and put our best game forward and win, and we want to go to London”, was what Mickey Arthur expressed after the see-saw battle against Sri Lanka. Well, that was where Pakistan were headed to after the semi-final thrashing, where the mighty, gifted Indians awaited.

  The Oval, with all its grandeur and majesty, was ready to adopt the vibrant South Asian colors and provide a perfect backdrop for what was to be a memorable Sunday eve. And you just had to be there. Hundreds of thousands of fans strolling down the South London alleys as they chanted trademark sub-continental slogans. Many more millions glued to their TV sets all around the globe.

      Mohammad Hafeez and Babar Azam rejoice after Pakistan completed a convincing win over hosts England in the semifinal (source – gettyimages/bbc.com)

  The sun hung like a brass coin on a thread, further dismissing any chances of rain interruptions. India decided to bowl first, apparently relying upon their stronger suit: chasing. The Pakistani duo made a cautious start until Zaman nicked Jasprit Bumrah to the keeper, in only the fourth over of the innings.

  Zaman begins drifting off the field; the man who has changed the structure of this batting line-up from an old woman pushing a shopping trolley to a rally car fluttering around bends dangerously. But then he is stopped mid-way and there is a daunting reason for that. Bumrah has overstepped.

  The blueish parts of the stands are muffled as the fans slouch down in disbelief. Even the Divinity was backing green that day. Making the most of this reprieve was what Zaman wished to do and he did that in some style. The flaying hook shots, the flashing cuts and drives, the heaves over cow-corner for magnificent sixes. In what seemed to be a blink of an eye, Zaman registered his maiden ODI ton.

  What an iconic venue to achieve it at! What a time to pull it off! What an opposition to score against! An incredible story had been penned down in the history books forever. The Babar Azam-Shoaib Malik pair built on this sensational platform to further stabilize the ship. However, it was not until Mohammad Hafeez arrived on the crease that the actual carnage unleashed.

  Who could have thought that Hafeez would suddenly discover this flexibility, this originality, this flair that changed perception and decimated India’s already woeful bowling attack? A quick-fire half-century supported by Imad Wasim’s unorthodox stroke-play meant Pakistan stormed to a mammoth total of 338/4 – the second highest in Champions Trophy history.

  The battle cry was at its loudest. The revolutionaries were retreating. The crowds waited as a sense of uneasiness surrounded the Oval. Jitters, panic and what not? On their day, the Indian batsmen could single-handedly wipe out the best bowling line-ups. Up front, facing Mohammad Amir, was Rohit Sharma. The dynamic, dominant Rohit, coming off a century in the semi-final.

      Fakhar Zaman raced to his maiden ODI hundred in the final against India, laying the foundation for Pakistan’s massive victory (source – AFP/indiatimes.com)  

  He tentatively nudges at the first delivery, wary of Amir’s murderous combo of pace and swing. Two balls later, he is pinned in front, courtesy of a quick in-swinger. Dead plumb. Rohit is gone. In comes the glorified warrior of the Indian soil, the greatest chaser the game has ever given birth to, the legend of modern-day cricket that is Virat Kohli.

  Amir beats him on the inside edge the very first ball he faces. The unsettled Kohli goes for an extravagant leg-side flick ten minutes later, which results in a top-edge straight to point’s throat. The green-lidded Pakistani section of the audience at The Oval goes berserk and the fielders swarm around Amir in joy. 200 million hearts rejoice and a billion hearts sink.

  At the rear of the Vauxhall End, the blaze rekindles. Synchronously, somewhere in a small dwelling in Karachi, a group of teenage kids scream their hearts out in utter elation, ripping their shirts off as they spurt around their home. Half of the game was won. Redemption tasted sweet. Greatness felt contagious.

  Kohli’s wicket was a killer blow that severely damaged India’s aims. An unthinkable batting collapse followed as wickets fell in a cluster. The greatest batting unit was surrendering as the Pakistani pacemen clawed through its defenses. Each and every bowler in the team got to taste and savour vengeance.

  The last wicket saw the ball lobbing up in the air and after what seemed to be an eternity, it dissipated into Sarfraz’s gloves and it was all done and dusted. The final nail was hammered into the coffin as Pakistan romped to a 180-run victory. The defending champions were dethroned and ambshed by their arch-rivals.

  History had been rewritten and preserved. One of the greatest comebacks in ODI cricket was accomplished. And once again, in all its unpredictability and fortitude, Pakistani cricket rose from its ashes, as resilient and hungry as ever.

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Specials – India v Pakistan ODI finals over the years

  Arch-rivals India and Pakistan are set to face each other in the final of the eighth edition of the Champions Trophy at the Oval today. Though this will be the first time that these two sides will contest an ICC ODI tournament final, they have often met in summit clashes over the years. Let us go back in time and revisit the instances of India and Pakistan squaring off in an ODI tournament final.

Benson and Hedges World Championship of Cricket, 1984-85

  In what was the final of a one-of-a-kind tournament featuring all seven Test nations, World Cup champions India posted a convincing eight-wicket win under lights at Melbourne. Kapil Dev (3/23) and L. Sivaramakrishnan (3/35) limited Pakistan to 176/9, which was chased down with 17 balls to spare, thanks to openers Kris Srikkanth (67) and ‘champion of champions’ Ravi Shastri (63*).

Austral-Asia Cup, 1986

  The final of the inaugural Austral-Asia Cup at Sharjah produced a classic that is etched in cricketing folklore. Sunil Gavaskar’s 92 guided India, who were inserted in, to 245/7. In reply, an equation of 90 from ten overs did not bother Javed Miandad (116*). With four needed off the last ball, the ‘Karachi streetfighter’ famously hit Chetan Sharma for six to seal Pakistan’s one-wicket win.

    With four needed off the last ball, Javed Miandad hit a six to ensure a famous win for Pakistan in the 1985-86 Austral-Asia Cup final 

Wills Trophy, 1991-92

  India and Pakistan pipped the West Indies to set up the final of this triangular series in Sharjah. Zahid Fazal (98*) and Saleem Malik (87) put on 171 for the third wicket before the former retired hurt, helping Pakistan to a sturdy 262/6. In the chase, India’s batsmen succumbed to paceman Aaqib Javed, who grabbed record figures of 7/37, including a hat-trick, as his team triumphed by 72 runs.

Austral-Asia Cup, 1993-94

  Pakistan won their third successive Austral-Asia Cup after beating India in the final. Aamer Sohail top-scored with 69 while Basit Ali hit a breezy 57 in Pakistan’s total of 250/6; off-spinner Rajesh Chauhan impressed with 3/29. India then fell apart from 163/4 to be dismissed for 211 in the 48th over, a fifth-wicket stand of 80 between Vinod Kambli and Atul Bedade going in vain.

Silver Jubilee Independence Cup, 1997-98

  This tri-series was played in Dhaka to mark 25 years of Bangladesh’s independence. India and Pakistan locked horns in the best-of-three finals after the hosts bowed out. The first final, a 46-over affair, ended in India’s favour with 53 balls and eight wickets to spare after openers Sachin Tendulkar (95) and Sourav Ganguly (68) put on 159 to shut Pakistan, who managed 212/8, out of the game.

  Pakistan turned the tables in the second final with a fine bowling display, spearheaded by left-arm spinner Mohammad Hussain (4/33). Only captain Mohammad Azharuddin (66) stood tall in a total of 189. Pakistan, buoyed by an attacking 51 from Saeed Anwar, galloped to a six-wicket win in 31.3 overs. The batsmen treated leggie Sairaj Bahutule with disdain, taking 53 off his five overs.

     Sourav Ganguly scored 124 to inspire India to a record-breaking win in the third final of the Independence Cup in 1997-98 (source – wisdenindia.com)

  The decider was a 48-over thriller that saw a new record for the highest successful chase. Pakistan amassed 314/5, with Anwar (140) and Ijaz Ahmed (117) adding 230 for the third wicket. Sourav Ganguly (124) and Robin Singh (82) took India to 250/1 in 38 overs, but the game went down to the wire – with three needed in two balls, Hrishikesh Kanitkar hit a four to give India a three-wicket win.

Pepsi Cup, 1998-99

  Pakistan had notched easy wins in their two league matches against India, and it was no different in the final of this tri-series (also involving Sri Lanka) at Bangalore. Inzamam-ul Haq (91) and Shahid Afridi (65) powered Pakistan to 291/8, which was too big a total for the hosts as they were undone by man of the match Azhar Mahmood, who took 5/38 to star in a 123-run victory.

Coca-Cola Cup, 1998-99

  India’s travails against Pakistan continued in the final of yet another tri-series, with England being the knocked-out team this time. The venue was Sharjah, Pakistan’s home away from home, and the bowlers rose to the occasion to skittle India out for 125 in 45 overs, with only Ganguly (50) showing some fight. The minuscule target was chased down in 28 overs with eight wickets still in the bag.

Kitply Cup, 2008

  India had thumped Pakistan by 140 runs in the league stage of this short tri-series in Dhaka, also featuring hosts Bangladesh, but the men in green raised their game in the final, winning by 25 runs. A second-wicket stand of 209 between Salman Butt (129) and Younis Khan (108) was the cornerstone of Pakistan’s 315/3. Despite fifties by M.S Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, India folded for 290 in 48.2 overs.

Famous Test Matches – West Indies v Pakistan, Bridgetown, 1976-77

  Pakistan’s 1976-77 tour of the Caribbean was only their second to the region, following their maiden sojourn back in 1957-58, which remains the only Test series to have featured two triple hundreds. As was the case 19 years earlier, the opening Test of the 1976-77 series was also played at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, from February 18-23, 1977.

  Going into this series, the West Indies had not played Test cricket for six months, with their last assignment being a significant 3-0 win in the five-Test series in England. Pakistan, on the other hand, had notched a comprehensive home win against New Zealand, followed by a commendable draw in Australia, in the preceding four months.

  Pakistan were led by Mushtaq Mohammad, younger brother of Hanif, who had scored an epic 337 the last time the two teams met at Bridgetown. He elected to bat after calling correctly, and his decision seemed vindicated as openers Majid Khan and Sadiq Mohammad – yet another of the Mohammad brothers – sedately put on 72.

  The West Indies had in their ranks two young fast bowlers on Test debut who would go on to have successful careers – Guyanese Colin Croft and Barbadian Joel Garner. The two were involved in the first wicket of the day, when Garner had Sadiq caught by Croft. Majid and Haroon Rasheed further added 76 for the second wicket, and at 148/1, Pakistan looked primed for a big total.

  However, Rasheed’s dismissal to off-spinner Maurice Foster led to a collapse engineered by the two debutants. Croft had Mushtaq caught behind by Deryck Murray for a duck, while Garner dealt a double blow, castling Majid for 88 and sending back Javed Miandad cheaply, out leg-before. Asif Iqbal’s wicket to Croft added to the visitors’ frustration, and they had now lost five for 85.

      Wasim Raja twice led Pakistan’s recovery, scoring 117* and 71 in the first and second innings respectively (source – brandsynario.com)

  Resuming at 269/6 on the second day, Pakistan had an undesired start, losing Imran Khan to Andy Roberts. Their hopes of bolstering the total now pinned on the left-handed Wasim Raja, who delivered with a fine century from number seven. He marshalled the tail expertly, sharing in stands of 64 with Saleem Altaf and 73 with Sarfraz Nawaz for the eighth and ninth wickets respectively.

  Raja’s unbeaten 117, including 12 fours and a six, powered Pakistan to a formidable 435. Garner bowled with purpose to collect 4/130, with Croft not too far behind with 3/85. In reply, the West Indian openers Roy Fredericks and Gordon Greenidge added 59, but both were back in the hut before stumps on the second day, the score reading 109/2.

  The pace duo of Imran and Sarfraz continued to trouble the hosts early on the third day, and at 183/5, with the key wickets of Vivian Richards and Alvin Kallicharan also taken, Pakistan clearly had the upper hand. One big hurdle however remained to be crossed – the West Indian captain Clive Lloyd, who came in at the fall of the third wicket.

  Lloyd found a willing ally in Murray, and the duo put the Pakistani attack to the sword with a much-needed restabilization job. Lloyd dominated the sixth-wicket stand of 151, unleashing his full range of strokes to lead his team’s fightback. Murray fell to Imran for a composed 52, but Lloyd was not done yet, and added another 70 for the seventh wicket with Garner, who cracked a breezy 43.

  The West Indian innings terminated at 421 with nine men out, as Vanburn Holder was absent hurt. Lloyd finished with a captain’s knock of 157, bedecked with 22 fours and three sixes. With only 14 runs separating the teams, the proceedings of the second innings would be critical to the outcome of the match. Stumps were taken on the third day with Pakistan at 18/0, leading by 32.

       West Indian captain Clive Lloyd rescued his team in the first innings with a commanding knock of 157 (source – gettyimages)

  The fourth day featured plenty of ebbs and flows that promised to set up an exciting fight to the finish. Croft (4/47) removed the Pakistani openers before they caused much damage, but at 102/2, the visitors could scarcely have imagined the mayhem to follow. Roberts (3/66) opened the floodgates by bowling Rasheed, and later added Mushtaq’s scalp to his tally.

  At the other end, Croft’s sustained pace got the better of Iqbal and Miandad, and the Pakistani innings was now in tatters at 113/6, the last four wickets having fallen for just 11 runs. Garner joined the party with two wickets of his own, and the match seemed West Indies’ to lose as Pakistan crashed to 158/9 in the second session, ahead by no more than 172.

  As it happened, Raja proved to be the home team’s bane again. The West Indian fielders, especially the wicketkeeper Murray, did not help themselves with a shoddy display. Raja was dropped four times, and he went on to score 71, the majority of those runs coming in a sensational tenth-wicket stand worth 133 with wicketkeeper Wasim Bari (68).

  This partnership was then the second-highest for the last wicket, and it changed the complexion of this already riveting Test. Murray was guilty of conceding 29 byes, largely contributing to the total of 68 extras, which created a new Test record at that time. The entire match would feature as many as 173 extras, which still stands as the Test record.

  The eventual target for the West Indies was a stiff 306, and matters were further complicated when Greenidge was out to Sarfraz with the score at 12. The hosts began the final day at 41/1, with all four results possible. Fredericks and Richards turned the tide towards their side, as their partnership blossomed to 130 in the opening session, making Pakistan uneasy.

      Colin Croft returned match figures of 7/132 on Test debut. He would go on to take 8/29 in the first innings of the next Test (source – gettyimages)

  Sarfraz did the star turn for the visitors, accounting for both, Fredericks (52) and Richards (92), who were trying to go on the offensive in their quest to make a victory bid. The middle order was severely dented by the pace trio of Sarfraz and Imran, as the West Indian score slipped from 142/1 to 185/5. It was soon becoming an increasingly tough battle of survival for the hosts.

  As if this was not enough, Altaf, the third frontline paceman, brought Pakistan closer to victory by grabbing the wickets of Kallicharan, Garner and Murray within the space of 11 runs. When the eighth wicket fell at 217, the mandatory 20 overs were yet to begin. Roberts and Holder, who was fit to bat now, defied by adding 20 runs in 45 minutes before the latter was cleaned up by Imran.

  Croft came out to join Roberts, with Pakistan one strike away from a crucial lead in the five-Test series. However, the two fast bowlers hung in as the overs went by, ensuring that the final nail in the coffin was not hammered. The West Indies had a narrow escape, ending at 251/9 amid great tension. Roberts consumed 95 minutes for his nine, returning to the pavillion as a saviour.

  Croft (7/132) and Sarfraz (7/204) both finished with seven wickets apiece in the match. This last-gasp draw was perhaps a fitting finish to what had been an absorbing Test match, filled with many a twist in the plot due to noteworthy rescue acts in all four innings. The West Indies took the series 2-1, after winning the deciding final Test at Kingston by 140 runs.

Match Scorecard

Specials – Best of the Tests: New Zealand v Pakistan

  Pakistan’s 13th Test tour of New Zealand is underway, with the first of two Tests having been played at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch. New Zealand has been a happy hunting ground for Pakistani teams over the years – prior to the start of the ongoing series, they have won ten and lost five of the 29 Tests they have played there.

  Overall, the two sides have met 53 times, with Pakistan winning 24 matches to New Zealand’s eight. New Zealand have won only two series against Pakistan, and the latest of them came 32 years ago. In this post, we relive five of the best Test matches played between the two teams, in chronological order.

Third Test, Dunedin, 1984-85

  Pakistan had beaten New Zealand at home in December 1984, and found themselves southbound for a return series the very next month. New Zealand were up 1-0 coming into this final Test of the rubber at Carisbrook. The second Test at Auckland had seen the debut of Wasim Akram, who would go on to become the most successful visiting bowler in New Zealand.

  Pakistan’s first-innings total of 274 was built around a third-wicket stand of 141 between Qasim Umar (96) and captain Javed Miandad (79). The last eight wickets fell for just 33, with Richard Hadlee (6/51) doing the bulk of the damage. 18-year-old Wasim then showed the first glimpse of his fast bowling prowess, taking 5/56 to help bowl New Zealand out for 220.

  Umar top-scored for the visitors in the second dig as well, compiling  a solid 89 that aided in a recovery from 76/4 to 223. Set 278 to win, New Zealand were in disarray at 23/4 as the top order caved in to Wasim. Martin Crowe (84) and Jeremy Coney staged a remarkable comeback, putting on 157 for the fifth wicket.

  Yet, at 228/8, Pakistan were in pole position to level the series. Coney, who remained unbeaten on a lionhearted 111, and Ewan Chatfield however put paid to the visitors’ hopes – they added 50* to script a two-wicket win for their side. Wasim grabbed 5/72 to return a haul of 10/128 and earned the man of the match award. This remains New Zealand’s only series win at home against Pakistan.

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       Waqar Younis (left) and Wasim Akram combined to bowl Pakistan to a sensational win at Hamilton in 1992-93 (source – wellpitched.com)

Only TestHamilton, 1992-93

  A brilliant exhibition of pace bowling handed Pakistan an extraordinary victory in this one-off Test at Seddon Park. New Zealand started on a bright note – they reduced Pakistan to 12/3 after winning the toss. Skipper Miandad came to the rescue with 92, with the eventual total being a respectable 216. Left-arm pacer Murphy Su’a returned a career-best 5/73.

  In reply, the hosts rode on a sedulous century from opener Mark Greatbatch. He showed great application, batting for seven hours in making 133 – more than half of the team total of 264 – and shared in an opening stand of 108 with Blair Hartland. Wasim and Waqar Younis served an appetiser of what was still to come, by sharing seven wickets between them.

  Bolstered by New Zealand’s valuable lead of 48, Danny Morrison (5/41) jolted the top order early on the third day. Inzamam-ul-Haq rose to the challenge, as he uplifted his team from the pits of 39/5 with a pugnacious 75. His partnership with Rashid Latif, worth 80 for the sixth wicket, carried Pakistan to 174. New Zealand faced a routine target of 127 with more than two days left.

  Wasim ensured that the chase had a dicey start, as he pinched three cheap wickets to leave New Zealand at 39/3 at the end of day three. As the fourth day commenced after a rain delay, Andy Jones and Adam Parore battled to take the score to 65/3 before Younis removed the former. Wasim soon sent Parore back, and suddenly the road to the target was looking arduous.

  From that point onward, it was mayhem – Wasim (5/45) and Waqar (5/22) combined to produce a breathtaking effort, rendering the Kiwis helpless with their combative pace and deadly swing. New Zealand lost 7 for 28 to capitulate to 93 all out; Mr. Extras top-scoring with 22. Waqar, playing his 20th Test, also reached the 100-wicket mark wickets during his spell.

Third Test, Christchurch, 1993-94

  Pakistan had already secured the series after comprehensive wins at Auckland and Wellington. The two Ws – Wasim and Waqar – proved to be New Zealand’s nemeses yet again in the first two Tests, bagging 20 and 11 wickets respectively. However, New Zealand salvaged pride at Lancaster Park, achieving a record five-wicket win early on the final day.

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         Bryan Young (left) and Shane Thomson struck maiden centuries in New Zealand’s highest successful run chase, at Christchurch in 1993-94 (source – odt.co.nz)

  Openers Saeed Anwar (69) and Aamir Sohail (60) laid a strong platform for Pakistan by adding 125 runs, before Basit Ali (103) continued the good work, racing to his first and only Test hundred. The visitors accumulated a robust 344 on the board and New Zealand had their task cut out.

  The hosts were going well at 109/1 with Andrew Jones (81) looking in fine fettle, but Waqar, not for the first time, inspired a collapse that gave Pakistan a first-innings cushion of 144. The ‘Burewala Express’ sped to a return of 6/78. Pakistan themselves folded for 179 on the third day, failing to recover from 53/4 despite Basit’s 67. Morrison took 4/66, extending his match analysis to 8/171.

  New Zealand were thus set 324 to win with more than two days still available. Opener Bryan Young dropped anchor at one end, but Pakistan were firm favourites at 133/4. Shane Thomson came in at number six, and went on to share in a match-winning partnership of 154 with Young. Both ultimately reached their maiden Test hundreds.

  While Young was out for 120, Thomson remained unbeaten on the same score, steering New Zealand to their highest successful Test chase. They played contrasting innings – Young batted for nearly seven hours, soaking the pressure, whereas Thomson struck at 72 runs per 100 balls. The duo adeptly negated the threat of Wasim and Waqar and were successful in denying Pakistan a clean sweep.

First Test, Lahore, 1996-97

  New Zealand began the series with a rare success in Pakistan – they had won only once before in the country, which was also at the Gaddafi Stadium, during their first ever series win in 1969-70. Moreover, they ended a barren run of 15 winless Tests – eight defeats and seven draws – over the last two years.

  Wasim, who was now the captain, missed the match due to a shoulder injury and Saeed Anwar took over in his stead. Lee Germon called correctly, but his team’s batsmen could not cope with the low bounce of the pitch. New Zealand crashed to 83/6 and on to 155 all out, with Waqar and leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed taking four wickets apiece.

  However, towards of the first day, New Zealand were right back in the contest after having reduced the hosts to 37/5. Medium pacer Simon Doull was the wrecker-in-chief as he made short work of the the top order, eventually ending with figures of 5/46. A spunky 59 from Moin Khan revived the innings to an extent and ensured a narrow lead of 36 for his team.

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     Shane Bond dismisses Mohammad Yousuf caught and bowled at Dunedin in 2009-10. New Zealand won by 32 runs (source – wikiwand.com)

  In the second innings, New Zealand were in a worrying position of 101/5 early on the third day. Ahmed was proving to be difficult to negotiate, until Chris Cairns joined Stephen Fleming. They stitched together 141 for the sixth wicket to turn the game. Fleming scored 92*, while Cairns hit 93 at better than a run a ball. When on seven, Cairns was dropped by Inzamam at gully.

  New Zealand were bowled out for 311, with Ahmed taking 6/84 (10/143 in the match). Chasing 276, Pakistan were on the mat at 46/5 by stumps, which became 60/6 on day four. Debutant Mohammad Wasim gave his side some hope, scoring 109* from number seven. But he could not find enough support and Pakistan lost by 44 runs. Dipak Patel took 4/36 while Doull ended with 8/85 in the match.

First Test, Dunedin, 2009-10

  The University Oval witnessed an exciting Test match that had its share of twists and turns. Pakistan’s pace attack had done well to have New Zealand at 211/6, before Brendon McCullum (78) and captain Daniel Vettori (99) took charge with a seventh-wicket stand worth 164. Earlier, Martin Guptill (60) and Ross Taylor put on 117 for the third wicket.

  These efforts enabled New Zealand to swell their total to 429. Pakistan began poorly in reply, slipping to 85/5 courtesy some fine bowling from speedster Shane Bond (5/107). 19-year-old Umar Akmal, who went on to score a breezy 129 on debut, joined forces with his elder brother Kamran (82) and the pair added a vital 176 for the sixth wicket, boosting Pakistan’s total to 332.

  Pakistan’s pacemen delivered timely blows in the second innings as well, and this time there was no lower-order fightback. Only Taylor (59) showed up as New Zealand were bundled out for 153 early on the final day, thus setting up an interesting chase. Mohammad Asif took 4/43, giving himself 8/151 in the match. Pakistan required 251 for victory.

  Bond and Chris Martin had Pakistan at 24/3 before Umar Akmal (75) put his hand up again. He shared in stands of 71 with captain Mohammad Yousuf for the fourth wicket and 66 with Shoaib Malik for the fifth. But at 195/5, he was caught and bowled by Bond (who had a match haul of 8/153 in what was his last Test). The last five wickets fell for just 23, leaving New Zealand victors by 32 runs.

Specials – Best of the Tests at the Bellerive Oval

  Tasmania got its first taste of Test cricket in December 1989, when Hobart’s Bellerive Oval hosted the second Test between Australia and Sri Lanka. Since then, the ground has been an occasional fixture on the Australian Test calendar, having hosted a total of 12 Tests – four against New Zealand, three each against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and two against the West Indies.

  Australia’s record at the ground, which is also known as the Blundstone Arena, is impressive – they have won nine games and lost just once. With South Africa – who are making their maiden appearance in Hobart – taking on the hosts in the second Test of their ongoing series, let us look back at five memorable matches played at this venue, in chronological order.

Australia v Sri Lanka, Second Test, 1989-90

  This match marked the Test debut of the Bellerive Oval, which had hosted an ODI each in the previous two seasons. Sri Lanka came into this final Test of the series on the back of a confidence-boosting draw at the Gabba, where they took the first-innings lead thanks Aravinda de Silva’s 167.

  Fast-medium pace bowler Rumesh Ratnayake produced an excellent spell of 6/66 as Australia were bowled out for 224 on the first day after being inserted by Arjuna Ranatunga. No batsman could manage a fifty. Sri Lanka crashed to 18/3 in reply before de Silva (75) joined forces with Roshan Mahanama (85) to share in a stand of 128 for the fourth wicket.

  However, the visitors lost their last six wickets for just 28, thus conceding a narrow lead of eight runs. After an eventful second day, Australia were 25/2 in their second innings and the match seemed to be heading towards an exciting conclusion. But the Australian batsmen had other ideas as they went about piling the runs in right earnest.

  While Mark Taylor (108) and captain Allan Border (85) added 163 for the fourth wicket to put their team in the driver’s seat, Dean Jones (118*) and Steve Waugh (134*) ensured that the innings went into overdrive mode with an unbroken sixth-wicket partnership of 260 at 4.5 an over. The declaration came at 513/5, leaving Sri Lanka with a target of 522.

  Sri Lanka put up a brave fight, but it was never going to be enough. Resuming the final day at 166/3, they were bowled out for 348 in the final session after losing their last four wickets for 16. De Silva, who was rightly named man of the series, starred again with 72, while Ravi Ratnayake top-scored with 75. Merv Hughes led the way for the hosts with 5/88.

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    The Bellerive Oval in Hobart has hosted 12 Test matches since 1989-90, of which Australia have won nine and lost only one (source – abc.net.au)

Australia v New Zealand, Third Test, 1997-98

  Australia had sealed the series with convincing wins at Brisbane and Perth, and nearly made it three out of three at Hobart. In what was a rain-affected Test, Australia totalled 400 after batting first. The cornerstone of the innings was a second-wicket stand of 197 between Matthew Elliott (114) and Greg Blewett (99). Mark Waugh chipped in with 81.

  With the match petering out to a draw, Stephen Fleming dangled the carrot in front of the Australians late on the fourth day. The New Zealand captain declared his team’s first innings at 251/6, in which Matthew Horne (133) was the standout performer with a maiden Test ton. Host captain Mark Taylor himself declared at 138/2 at lunch on the final day.

  Two sessions now remained in the match, with New Zealand needing 288 runs to win and Australia ten wickets. The Kiwis got off to a flyer, with openers Horne and Nathan Astle blasting 72 off 52 balls. It was too good to last though, as the score quickly slid to 95/4. Shane Warne was coming into his own and the visitors thought it wise to give up their victory hopes.

  Adam Parore and Roger Twose had almost steered their team to safety with a seventh-wicket stand of 66, but a final twist was in store. Three wickets fell for six runs and New Zealand had only one wicket in the bank with 38 minutes to play. A whitewash was narrowly averted as the last pair of Simon Doull and Shane O’Connor defied the wiles of Warne (5/88), the innings ending at 223/9.

Australia v Pakistan, Second Test, 1999-00

  After clinching a ten-wicket win in the series opener, Australia looked certain to lose before an amazing last-day fightback from Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist gave them a famous win. Steve Waugh inserted Pakistan in and his bowlers did not disappoint, limiting the total to 222. Opener Mohammed Wasim made an attacking 91.

  In reply, Australia were in a commanding position at 191/1 with Michael Slater (97) and Langer (59) in ominous form. But Pakistan somehow conjured a comeback, guided by off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq (6/46). Australia were dismissed for 246, losing their last eight wickets for 40.Pakistan then took control of the game with a solid batting display in the second innings.

  Saeed Anwar (78) took charge at the top before Inzamam-ul-Haq (118) and Ijaz Ahmed (82) put on 136 for the fourth wicket. Shane Warne (5/110) bowled impressively, but Pakistan went on to score 392. Australia needed 369 to win the Test and the series, which looked a distant dream when they fell to 126/5 on the fourth evening.

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      Playing only his second Test, Adam Gilchrist smashed 149* off 163 balls to help Australia chase down 369 against Pakistan in 1999-00 (source – yahoocricket)

  They began the final day at 188/5 and Pakistan were well on top. But the overnight batsmen, Langer and Gilchrist, were not deterred and went on to add a record 238 runs for the sixth wicket. While Langer made a solid 127, it was Gilchrist’s assault that jolted Pakistan. The wicket-keeper cracked an unbeaten 149 off 163 balls – a marvellous knock given the situation.

  The Australians eventually reached 369/6 – then the third-highest fourth-innings victory chase – as Pakistan were left to rue their misfortune. There was controversy early on the final morning, when Langer appeared to have been wrongly reprieved following a caught-behind appeal off captain Wasim Akram. Australia went on to sweep the series 3-0.

Australia v Sri Lanka, Second Test, 2007-08

  Australia won the two-Test series 2-0, but not before Sri Lanka made a valiant attempt to chase down a massive target. The home batsmen put the Sri Lankan bowling attack to the sword after winning the toss, amassing 542/5 before Ricky Ponting decided that they had batted enough.

  Opener Phil Jaques struck a career-best 150, and was involved in a third-wicket partnership of 152 with Michael Hussey, who made 132. Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist hit brisk fifties to further put Sri Lanka under the pump. Captain Mahela Jayawardene stood up to the task by scoring 104, but his side faced a deficit of 296 after the first innings.

  Australia opted to bat again and galloped to 210/2, declaring before lunch on the fourth day. Marvan Atapattu (80) and Kumar Sangakkara showed resolve in pursuit of an unlikely 507, as they put on 143 for the second wicket. Sangakkara was looking in great touch and ended the day at 109*, Sri Lanka’s score reading 247/3.

  Australia, hungry for their 14th successive Test match win, wrested the initiative on the fifth day, sparking a collapse to send Sri Lanka from 265/3 to 290/8 even as Sangakkara batted on with assurance. The ninth wicket fetched 74 runs, as Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga engaged in an entertaining counterattack.

  Only a poor umpiring decision stopped Sangakkara from reaching his seventh double hundred, as he was adjudged out for a brilliant 192 after the ball deflected from his shoulder and hit the helmet before being snapped in the slips. Sri Lanka were eventually dismissed for 410. Brett Lee, who was named man of the match and series, finished with 4/87, taking his match figures to 8/169.

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     Doug Bracewell celebrates a wicket at Hobart in 2011-12 even as David Warner looks on. New Zealand won a thriller by just seven runs (source – pakistantoday.com.pk)

Australia v New Zealand, Second Test, 2011-12

  Coming into this match, Australia were favourites to take the rubber after an easy nine-wicket win in the first Test. Michael Clarke had no hesitation in putting New Zealand in to bat on a grassy wicket. The hosts’ pace trio of James Pattinson (5/51), Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc proceeded to destroy New Zealand’s top order – they crashed to 60/6 in the first session itself.

  Dean Brownlie stemmed the rot with a gutsy 56 from number six. He shepherded the tail and was the only one to cross 20. The innings wound up at 150 before the first day ended prematurely due to rain, Australia being 12/1. The second day was again dominated by the bowlers as the Australian batsmen failed to cope with the visiting bowlers’ pace and swing. 

  The batting order imploded as the score slid to 75/7. Chris Martin, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell took three wickets each. It took a 56-run stand for the eighth wicket between Siddle and Pattinson to revive the final total to 136. With New Zealand leading by just 14, the Test was now akin to a second-dig shootout. They lost their top three with 73 on the board in the second innings.

  Captain Ross Taylor steadied the ship, scoring 56. From 171/4, New Zealand regressed to 226 all out, which left Australia with seven sessions to score 241. By stumps on the third day, openers Phil Hughes and David Warner cruised to 72/0, thus providing the perfect start to the chase. At 159/2 and with Warner and Ricky Ponting in the middle, the game was Australia’s to lose.

  However, 21-year-old Bracewell, playing only his third Test, went on to bowl a game-changing spell. He finished with 6/40, scalping Ponting, Clarke and Michael Hussey – the latter two in successive balls – even as Warner fought on. Three wickets had fallen for no run and the game was wide open. Except for Warner, no batsman crossed 23.

  Another catastrophic slide from 192/5 to 199/9 seemed to be the final blow for the hosts. But Warner, who carried his bat in vain for 123 off 170 balls, and Lyon added 34 to ignite hope among the spectators before Bracewell castled Lyon with tea approaching to script a seven-run win for New Zealand – their first against Australia in 19 years.

Record Book – Pakistan’s favourite venue in England

  If history is any indication, Pakistan have reason to feel optimistic as they gear up for the fourth and final Test against England today. Having suffered back-to-back defeats at Old Trafford and Edgbaston, the concluding tussle at the Oval becomes a must-win for the visitors to level the series.

  While there is no denying that England will have the momentum when the captains walk out for the toss at the oldest Test centre in the country, Misbah-ul-Haq’s men would do well to gain inspiration from the fact that Pakistan have not suffered an outright defeat at The Oval for a good 49 years.

  Pakistan have over the years grown to develop a liking for The Oval, ever since they recorded a historic 24-run win there to level their very first series in England in 1954. In what was a low-scoring thriller (the highest total was 164), pace ace Fazal Mahmood etched his name in history with a remarkable haul of 12/99.

  The feat of 1954 could not be repeated in Pakistan’s next two tours of England. In 1962, the Oval Test saw Pakistan tumble to a heavy ten-wicket defeat in what was the final match of a series thoroughly dominated by the hosts. The result in 1967 was little different, with a tame surrender by eight wickets.

  The 1974 series ended in 0-0 stalemate after the third and final Test at The Oval petered to a high-scoring draw. The highlight was Zaheer Abbas’ stroke-filled 240 – his second double century in England after his 274 at Edgbaston in 1971. Pakistan’s next date with the venue was only in 1987, when they fielded one of their strongest sides.

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      Pakistan have four wins in nine Tests at the Oval, and have not lost outright at the ground since 1967 (source – bt.com) 

  Needing only a draw to secure their first series win in England, Pakistan shut the hosts out of the contest by piling up their then highest total of 708 with Javed Miandad’s 260 leading the run glut. Following on 474 in arrears, England salvaged a draw thanks to a century from Mike Gatting, but it was enough for Pakistan to seal the rubber.

  The 1992 series was locked at 1-1 when the two teams met in the decider at The Oval, Miandad now captain of Pakistan. What followed was a stellar performance from the deadly duo of Wasim Akram (6/67 in the first innings) and Waqar Younis (5/52 in the second) as Pakistan cruised to a ten-wicket win before lunch on the fourth day.

  A third consecutive series win was completed in 1996 and The Oval was again the scene of the denouement as Pakistan took the three-Test series by 2-0 with a nine-wicket victory. Saeed Anwar’s free-flowing 176 gave the visitors a healthy lead, before figures of 6/78 from Mushtaq Ahmed put the writing on the wall for England.

  A decade passed before Pakistan returned to the venue, for what was one of the most acrimonious Test matches ever played. Pakistan had already lost the series after defeats in the second and third Tests, but looked good for a consolation win when controversy struck after tea on the fourth day.

 

  Impressive bowling by the Pakistani pacemen and a stylish 128 from Mohammad Yousuf had given Pakistan a massive lead of 331 runs. England were 298/4 in their second dig when Australian umpire Darrell Hair awarded five penalty runs to the total as he charged Pakistan with ball tampering. 

  When play was about to resume after a break due to bad light, there was no sign of the Pakistani players. It soon dawned upon the full house that captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and his team had decided not to take the field in protest of Hair’s actions. A few hours later, it was confirmed that the umpires had awarded the game to England – the first ever instance of a forfeit in Test history.

  Four years later in 2010, a graver scandal – the spot-fixing incident at Lord’s – was to dog Pakistan’s tour. However, before that, the visitors rekindled their affection for The Oval. Down 2-0 in the four-Test series, they achieved a tense four-wicket win in the third Test to stay alive. 

  Match-winning spells of 5/63 from Wahab Riaz and 5/52 from Mohammad Amir in the first and second innings respectively were complemented by an unbeaten 92 from Azhar Ali, which ensured that Pakistan’s target was limited to 148. Pakistan’s record at The Oval now read four wins and three defeats (including the forfeit) in nine Tests.

  In what promises to be an exciting finish to the 2016 series, Pakistan will be up against an uplifted English side while the hosts will look to avoid a fifth outright defeat to Pakistan at The Oval. It remains to be seen what transpires on the hallowed turf of the iconic ground that hosted the inaugural Test in England back in 1880.

Who Would Have Thought It – Ireland’s first and only Test match

  Ireland may have set a target to become a Test team by 2020, but the fact is that the country has already been represented in official Test cricket quite a few years ago. Moreover, not only have Ireland played Test cricket, but they also boast of a 100% winning record.

  The match in question was a solitary Test between Ireland Women and Pakistan Women played at College Park in Dublin and which lasted just two days – 30th and 31st July, 2000. Ireland then were a clearly stronger outfit than Pakistan on the women’s circuit, and the gulf between the sides showed in the result.

  The ODI series preceding this four-day Test featured a string of heavy Irish successes. The hosts began by skittling Pakistan for 95 en route to a nine-wicket win in the first ODI, which was followed by wins with margins of 117 and 150 runs in the next two games. In tough conditions and facing a buoyant home side, the visitors were up against it from the word go.

  While Ireland were on Test debut, the Pakistani women had played one Test match before – against Sri Lanka in 1997-98, in which they were thumped by 309 runs. Led by the seasoned Miriam Grealey, the Irish side for this landmark match bore a mix of youth and experience, the average age being 27.

  The youngest member of the eleven was Isobel Joyce, who stepped down as Irish captain in March 2016. Joyce had just turned 17 and went on to deliver a wonderful bowling performance in this match. She was not even 16 when she made her ODI debut, against India in 1999, and till date remains one of the mainstays of the Ireland team.

  Amid moist conditions following overnight rain, Pakistan captain Shaiza Khan elected to bat on winning the toss, a decision she was probably left to rue. Medium pace bowler Barbara McDonald dominated the early proceedings, as she destroyed Pakistan’s top order with a testing spell of 3/9.

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     A 17-year-old Isobel Joyce starred in Ireland’s inaugural Test with a brilliant bowling display (source – broadsheet.ie)

  McDonald’s burst ensured that Pakistan lost four wickets – including that of the captain – for as many runs to crash to 10/4, the remaining wicket going to leg-spinner Ciara Metcalfe. At the other end, off-spinner Catherine O’Neill gobbled the fifth wicket and Pakistan were staring down the barrel at 21/5.

  Opener Zehmerad Afzal – who presently plays for Cheshire – tried to dig in and shared in a partnership of 29 for the sixth wicket with Deebah Sherazi. However, the latter’s dismissal by O’Neill (3/15) triggered another collapse, as Pakistan succumbed to spin. O’Neill and Metcalfe, who finished with 4/26, made short work of the tail.

  Pakistan lost their last five wickets for just three runs to be bundled out for 53, consuming a painstaking 47.4 overs. Only two women reached double figures, Afzal top-scoring with an obdurate 25. Ireland’s bowling was both stifling and penetrative, as evidenced by 25 maiden overs. Though Saibh Young went wicketless, she conceded only a run in her ten overs.

  Ireland lost Clare O’Leary to Sharmeen Khan for a duck with only five runs on the board, but Pakistan failed to build on this start. Karen Young (58) and Caitriona Beggs (68*) put the game beyond Pakistan’s reach as they added 112 for the second wicket. Nazia Nazir took two wickets, but it hardly unsettled the Irishwomen.

  Wicketkeeper Anne Linehan (27*) belted a few quick runs as Ireland set their sights upon a declaration. With the score reading 193/3 in 47 overs, Brealey decided it was enough, especially since there was always a possibility of rain hampering her team’s onward charge. With a lead of 140 on the first day itself, Ireland were well on top.

  Pakistan reshuffled their batting order for the second innings, but it hardly helped. Sheerazi, promoted to open, was cleaned up by McDonald as the eventful first day drew to a close. A circumspect Pakistan ended the day at 8/1, facing an uphill task to stay alive in the contest.

  The second day belonged to the teeanged Joyce, whose left-arm medium pace proved to be too hot to handle for the visitors. There was no play before lunch due to rain and when the match resumed, Joyce took full advantage of the seam-friendly conditions.

  Joyce began by bowling Sajjida Shah and trapping Nazir LBW, both for ducks, to reduce Pakistan to 8/3. She followed it up by having the talented Kiran Baluch caught behind. Khursheed Jabeen and Afzal attempted a revival by adding 34 for the fifth wicket, but the writing was already on the wall. 

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     Caitriona Beggs top-scored for Ireland in their inaugural Test with an unbeaten 68 (source – womenscricket.net) 

  Afzal top-scored for Pakistan again with 20, before she became the first of three wickets to fall to O’Neill (3/12) while the score regressed from 56/4 to 62/7. Jabeen stoically faced 156 balls, but could manage no more than 13 runs as Joyce returned to complete the last rites.

  The last three wickets all fell bowled to Joyce as Pakistan’s agony came to an end after 54.1 overs, in which they crawled to a total of 86. Joyce, who did not bowl in the first innings and came in only as the fifth bowler in the second, finished with remarkable figures of 6/21 in 11.1 overs.

  Ireland had won their first ever Test match by an innings and 54 runs in less than two days. While Ireland had galloped at 4.11 runs an over, Pakistan managed a rate of just 1.36 across both innings. Joyce was named as the player of the match for her bowling effort. It could not have been a better start.

  Due to the Test getting over in double-quick time, two additional ODI matches were played at the same ground as an extension of the original series. Ireland won the first of these while the second was washed out, giving the home team a 4-0 win in the five-match series. 

  Unfortunately, Ireland’s inaugural Test also turned out to be their last. Women’s Test cricket across the world has gradually declined ever since, and today, except for Australia and England and to a certain extent India, it is virtually a dead concept. The rise of Twenty20 has instead given women’s cricket a highly feasible format.

  Ireland’s women are not alone to have enjoyed a successful start in Test cricket without going on to play their next. Sri Lanka too have never played a Test after beating Pakistan in the aforementioned match. Pakistan themselves have played only three Tests in all and none since 2004. 

  As the Ireland men’s team gears up for the prospect of Test cricket within the next three years, let us not forget their female counterparts’ commendable achievement of winning their first official Test match in resounding fashion sixteen years ago.

Match Scorecard