A Sunday morning at the Oval. Bright sunshine and clear skies were on the menu as the World Cup favourites India and Australia faced off.
For most teams of the subcontinent, the slow, bating-friendly pitch of the Adelaide Oval comes as a welcome relief from the seamer-friendly conditions of the Gabba or the fast wicket of the WACA in years gone by.
Many Pakistani or Indian players have enjoyed greater success at this ground than anywhere else down under.
During the last two decades, the Aussies have completely dominated their home series against Pakistan. Sadly for Pakistan, in recent times, they have been denied a Test in Adelaide. The fact that they normally a get two- or three-Test series hasn’t helped the situation.
But back in the late 1970s and 1980s, this venue was the home for a number of closely fought matches between the two rivals.
Interestingly, the first meeting between the two teams at this ground, during the Christmas period of 1972, proved a disaster for the touring team. Ian Chappell’s 196 combined with Ashley Mallett’s eight-wicket haul in the second innings ensured an innings victory for the hosts. Pakistan were whitewashed in the three-match series, although they fought well in the next two Tests.
Pakistan returned four years later, this time well prepared under the leadership of Mushtaq Mohammad. And they showed their strength in the first Test of the series at the Adelaide Oval, again played during the Christmas period.
First Test, 24-29 December 1976
The home team started their centenary season as the firm favourites in the three-match series. In the previous summers they had humiliated both England and the West Indies. Something similar was expected here – and indeed, at the halfway point of this Test, they seemed in full control.
Batting first, the Pakistan side were bowled out for only 272. Zaheer Abbas scored a fine 85, but the other top order men struggled. Imran Khan led a late rally with 48.
After the Christmas day break, the home side started their reply on the Boxing Day. Centuries from opener Ian Davies and middle order bat Doug Walters took the score to 454 for a massive lead of 182. But it was at this stage that the Pakistan side started their fightback. And it was Zaheer Abbas who was again at the forefront.
While a number of the other top order batsmen got out after looking good, he carried on. And in the middle of the fourth day’s play, he completed his fine ton. He was soon dismissed though, and when leg spinner Kerry O’Keefe bowled Imran for five, Pakistan were 6/298. It seemed that despite their strong fight, Pakistan would be beaten.
Pakistan needed someone to fight with the tail, and there was no one better suited for that job than Asif Iqbal. One of the fastest runners between the wickets in the history of the game, he cleverly manipulated the strike, shielding the tailenders as much as possible. It was the 87-run final-wicket stand with the debutant Iqbal Qasim that frustrated the Aussies most. Remarkably, Qasim’s contribution was only four before he was run out. Asif finished on 152 not out.
For both Zaheer and Asif, these were vital innings. Both were part of the disastrous tour four years earlier. Zaheer had come for special criticism as he was considered his side’s premier batsman at the time. The Adelaide crowd saw the best of both Zaheer and Asif here. They were helped by the fact that Jeff Thomson was unable to bowl in the second innings after injuring himself in the first, but nothing should be taken away from Asif and Zaheer.
So the final act began on the fifth morning with the home side needing 285 for victory. Although, Sarfraz Nawaz dismissed Davies for a duck, Mushtaq Mohammad mainly depended on young Qasim with his left-arm orthodox spin for the breakthroughs.
Supporting him were the skipper himself plus young Javed Miandad with their leg spin. The crowd on the final day saw a fascinating battle between the Pakistan spin and the Aussie batting. Skipper Greg Chappell and veteran Doug Walters shared a century stand, but somehow Qasim kept on picking up vital wickets to keep his team in the match.
Finally, when he dismissed the Aussie captain for a well-made 70, the Aussies – at 6/228 – decided to give up their chase. Gary Cosier and Rod Marsh batted safely to finish at 6/261. Qasim finished with the impressive figures of 4/84 from 30 eight-ball overs.
The match ended in a draw although both teams sensed their chances at different stages of the match.
Third Test, 9-13 December 1983
Following the 1-1 series draw in 1976-77, the rivalry between Australia and Pakistan for Test supremacy became quite intense. Sadly, it can’t be described as a healthy rivalry. The infamous Dennis Lillee verus Javed Miandad story was one of many unhappy incidents in Test matches involving these two nations.
Nevertheless, the respect for Pakistan cricket among the viewers in Australia was on the rise following Test victories at the SCG in 1977, and successive wins at MCG. The 3-0 whitewash inflicted on Kim Hughes’ side in the autumn of 1982 was a big blow to Aussie pride.
In this scenario, the ACB invited Pakistan for a full tour of five Tests plus a long ODI competition during the summer of 1983. Sadly, the tour failed to live up to the expectations. Pakistan badly missed their inspirational skipper for the first three Tests, and while Imran played in the last two, he was unable to bowl and played as a batsman only. The Aussies convincingly won the series 2-0. The only time Pakistan looked like winning a Test came at the Adelaide Oval.
Batting first, the Aussies scored 465, thanks to a mammoth 179 from opener Kepler Wessels and a polished 117 not out from Allan Border. For Pakistan, Azeem Hafeez – the young left-arm seamer, took five wickets, but he went for 167 runs. Veteran Sarfraz also bowled intelligently to take three wickets, but Abdul Qadir was a big disappointment with his figures of 1/96.
In the first Test at the WACA, Pakistan managed only 129. They did marginally better at the Gabba, reaching 156 on the opening day. Here, at the Adelaide Oval, their second-wicket partnership alone put on 233 runs as Pakistan came back in the Test.
Opener Mohsin Khan (149) and Qasim Umar (113) defied the Aussie bowlers for a long time. Mohsin Khan was a fringe player for the Pakistan team until his career changed with 200 at Lord’s in 1982 – an innings that helped Pakistan gain their first ever Test success at Lord’s. A consistent run of scores in the 1982-83 season had confirmed his place as the number one opener. Here, after failures in the first two Tests, he came good in the third Test. For Kenya-born Umar, it was his first major series and his first Test ton.
The Aussie seamers however used the second new ball well, and when Rodney Hogg dismissed acting captain Zaheer Abbas for 46, the Pakistanis were reduced to 4/371, and the match was finely balanced.
It was the fifth wicket stand between Javed Miandad (131) and Saleem Malik (77) that gave the away team the edge. They eventually reached 624. All the Aussie front-line bowlers reached their hundreds. Lillee took 6/171 from 50 overs.
Recently I have watched some videos of Lillee’s bowling. I have got the impression that while he used to go flat out in places like the WACA or the Gabba, he would bowl in a slightly different manner on the slower pitches. In places like the Adelaide Oval, he would cut down his pace and would try to get his cutters going.
Here, all the other Aussie bowlers struggled against the impressive Pakistan top roder. So Hughes had to turn to his reserve bowlers for help. Interestingly, 35-year-old Greg Chappell bowled 32 overs, but Allan Border – a more than a useful spinner – was used for just one over.
Australia finished the day at 2/94, still in arrears. More importantly for Pakistan, it appeared that for the first time in the series, Pakistan leggie Abdul Qadir had started to look threatening.
Following his 22-wicket haul in the whitewash the previous year, the Pakistan supporters had pinned great hope on him in the series. But in this series he struggled badly. Still, the Pakistan fans hoped that December 13 would be his lucky day.
At the end it was Kim Hughes’ day as the Aussie captain scored 106 – his ninth and final Test ton – to save his team. It was old-fashioned Test cricket – absorbing rather than exciting. Qadir gave his side early hope by dismissing opener Wayne Philips, but the Hughes-Border partnership added 95 runs for the fourth wicket. More importantly, they used up valuable time, denting the opposition hopes. Qadir tried all his tricks but there was no more success for him. It wasn’t his day or his series.
Pakistan also had 37-year-old off spinner Mohammad Nazir in their squad. He took 7/99 in his Test debut at Karachi in 1969-70, but then became something like a Pakistani version of Ray Bright, touring a lot without breaking into the main team. His 14-Test career ended in this match. On the final day he bowled accurately, but his figures of 0/39 off 27 overs didn’t contribute anything to Pakistan’s push for quick wickets.
Kim Hughes was adjudged man of the match for his match-saving hundred. This series was his final hurrah, both as a player and as a captain.
Second Test, 19-23 January 1990
Under the able leadership of Imran, Pakistan achieved historic series successes in India and England in 1987. A year later, they shared the spoils 1-1 in a hard fought three-Test series in the West Indies. With a bit of luck they could have won the series 3-0. But Australia remained a difficult proposition for the Pakistan side. In 1989-90 they lost the three-match series 1-0. And as usual, Pakistan’s best moments came in the second Test at the Adelaide Oval.
Batting first, Pakistan disappointed their fans, scoring just 257. A number of their top order batsmen got going, but at the end the highest individual score was only 52. The Aussie seamers showed the ability to take vital wickets at vital times with tall Carl Rackemann taking 4/40.
In reply, the Aussie batting was steady rather than spectacular. They took 133 overs to reach 341. Dean Jones top scored with 116. Wasim Akram took 5/100.
The Aussie lead of 84 was useful rather than imposing. Yet, when the Pakistan side slumped to 5/90, it seemed a lost cause for the tourists. Big Merv Hughes in a hostile spell removed the Pakistan top order, and then he returned to dismiss Javed Miandad for 21. Pakistan’s premier batsman was struggling with niggling injuries.
With Saleem Malik also unfit, Wasim Akram got a promotion to the number seven slot. He joined his skipper Imran, and the for the next four hours, these two completely dominated the Aussie bowling, changing the course of the match in the process.
A free-flowing batsman, Akram was initially a bit cautious due to the situation of the match. But once in, he started to show his full array of strokes. He was particularly impressive while driving through the off side. Eighteen fours and one six were the highlights of his 123-run innings.
When he was eventually dismissed, Pakistan’s lead had almost reached the 200 mark – and the Aussies were on the defensive. The Aussie fans were especially disappointed by the ineffectiveness of their main spinner, Peter Taylor.
Imran was dismissed late on the day, but not before he had compiled a fine knock of 136. With massive responsibility on his shoulders, he never took any risk. There were only ten hits to the fence in his innings.
The final act of the Test started early on the fifth morning, after Pakistan declared on 9/387 – a target of 304 for the opposition. The home side’s approach was cautious, as opener Geoff Marsh was unable to bat. Any chance of an Aussie victory disappeared as they lost two wickets quickly. Again, it was Dean Jones who came to the rescue. His unbeaten 121 ensured safety for his side.
For Pakistan, off-spinner Tauseef Ahmed took 3/80, but he was always a defensive type spinner. Pakistan relied more on the debutant leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmed. And indeed, he asked more questions from the Aussie batsmen. But at the end he finished with 1/72. The fielders didn’t help him, and he himself dropped a return catch from Jones, which if taken might have changed the course of the match.
Wasim Akram was adjudged man of the match.
Pakistan’s recent Test record in Australia can be described in one word: pathetic. Many Pakistan supporters would be hoping that this season’s Adelaide Test will bring a change of fortune for their team.