Game on: When Shoaib Akhtar made us proud
The third day’s play between Pakistan and Australia was in progress in Colombo on October 5, 2002. It was the first Test match of the series where Pakistan was forced to play an almost second string side due to the unavailability of players like Saeed Anwar, Inzamamul Haq, Muhammad Yousuf and Wasim Akram.
The weather was extremely hot and humid, as is usually associated with the Sri Lankan climate. Australia performed according to all expectations and dominated the match, scoring 467 in the first innings and bowling out Pakistan’s inexperienced batting line-up at 279 on the third day’s play, gaining a lead of 188. With a good total in the second innings, Australia would have wrapped the game up with ease.
The second innings started the usual way with Australia cruising along 74/1 after 20 overs, stretching their lead to 262 runs with nine wickets remaining. The ball was old enough for reverse swing on the dry pitch so Shoaib Akhtar was reintroduced to the attack, transforming everything after that.
As Charlie Austin quoted during the match report,
“Racing into bowl, charged with aggression, his long shiny black locks flowing behind him, Akhtar worked up tremendous pace on a pitch that has provided little assistance to the fast bowlers, producing a succession of in swinging thunderbolts that ripped the heart out of Australia’s batting.”
Shoaib Akhtar managed to destroy the Australian batting line up with extreme pace and swing, grabbing five wickets for just eight runs in the 15 ball spell which lasted almost 30 minutes. First to go was Ricky Ponting, who dragged the ball onto his stumps on a ball that should have been punished for four.
However, the best was yet to come.
Mark Waugh was clean bowled in a ferocious in-swinging delivery on the very next ball.
Steve Waugh was the next batsman who was the only one to survive the hat-trick ball. But there was an LBW on the very next ball from another speedy in-swinger by Akhtar. Adam Gilchrist survived the first five balls of the next over by Shoaib which included a boundary. The last ball of the over was perhaps the best ball of the spell- a scorching yorker that rocketed into Australia’s most dangerous batsman and hit the base of his leg stump even before the bat could come down. Shane Warne was the last of the five LBW victims of Shoaib Akhtar.
Suddenly Australia was 89/7, eventually bowled out for 127. They had the lowest total against Pakistan at that point. Even though after a close competition, Pakistan ended up losing the match by 41 runs, Shoaib Akhtar completed his fifth five-for during his 22nd Test Match which was rated by Wisden as one of Test Cricket’s ‘greatest short spells’.
I hope Pakistan will see many more exciting games like this in the future, which will be remembered for years to come!
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