Zak Crawley has enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a near faultless first Test century to lead England to a commanding 4-332 at stumps on Day 1 of their third and final Test against Pakistan in Southampton.
During the 1980s the Pakistan team, led by their charismatic skipper Imran Khan, was a major force in world cricket.
Imran’s illustrious career ended with the World Cup success of 1992. Javed Miandad, another stalwart in the team, left Test cricket before the end of 1993, although he made a surprise return in the 1996 World Cup.
Match-fixing allegations appeared to throw Pakistan cricket into disarray in the mid 1990s. Yet the Pakistan team continued to remain a strong force throughout the decade in both forms of the game.
A major ingredient of their success was the superb fast bowling by the two Ws, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. And the words ‘reverse swing’ were always associated with the duo.
While Sarfraz Nawaz is generally accepted as the pioneer in this field, the two Ws were the first ones to perfect it. Of course, during the tour to England in 1992, there were all kinds of controversy regarding this reverse swing. It just seemed that the England batsmen were not prepared for it. And before the decade was over, reverse swing was accepted as a major novelty in the game of cricket.
And both had great in-swinging yorkers. Unlike the West Indies quickies, they didn’t go for relentless short-pitched bowling. They used the bouncer as a surprise weapon, but their lethal yorkers were their main weapon.
Here, I will recall some memorable matches where the two Ws combined to lead the Pakistan team to greater heights.
Lord’s 1992 versus England
This was especially memorable for the duo, as they not only bowled well, but they had to contribute with the bat to secure a victory for their team.
The home side made a fine start as their opening pair of Graham Gooch and Alec Stewart shared a stand of 123. But then Waqar got his reverse swing going after tea as England slumped from 2-172 to 255 all out. Waqar took 5-91.
This was a comeback match for Waqar. He was sent home from Australia prior to the World Cup due to injury. In fact, there were doubts about him playing in this series. He missed the first Test, but made a triumphant return here.
Wasim took 4-66 as England managed only 175 in their second knock. Stewart carried his bat for 69 not out. The Pakistan target was only 138, but Pakistan being Pakistan, their top order made a real mess of it.
Chris Lewis dismissed Ramiz Raja, Asif Mujtaba and skipper Javed all for ducks as the tourists slumped to 3-18.
Inzamam-ul-Haq ran himself out and the leg spinner Ian Salisbury got into the act, restricting Pakistan to 8-95. It was at this stage that the two Ws got together.
While Waqar never had much of a reputation as a batsman, Wasim was known for his big hitting. But both responded to the demands of the situation. Waqar played every ball on its merits, while Wasim curbed his natural stroke making. After an hour of nail-biting action, they took Pakistan home for a two-wicket win late on the fourth evening. Wasim finished 45 not out, while Waqar contributed 20.
The Oval 1992 versus England
After England won the fourth Test at Headingley, this became the decider. And as usual, the duo played a big part in Pakistan’s ten-wicket win, sharing 15 wickets among themselves. The match was effectively over on the opening day, when England slumped from 3-182 to 207 all out. Wasim took 6-67.
Waqar dominated the third afternoon. Coming to the bowling crease first change, he ran through the England top order with the semi-new ball to restrict them to 4-59.
Hamilton 1993 versus New Zealand
After dominating the match throughout, the Kiwi team suffered a 33-run defeat. For them it was a classic case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. To be fair to the Kiwi batsmen, they were forced to surrender the initiative by the hostile Pakistan pace attack.
The NZ captain Ken Rutherford put the opposition in after winning the toss, and his new-ball bowlers didn’t disappoint him, quickly restricting the Pakistan side to 3-12. Only a brave 92 by Javed helped Pakistan reach 216.
The Kiwis replied with 264. More than half the runs came from opener Mark Greatbatch (133). The Kiwis had a useful lead of 48. Yet this lead seemed decisive when Pakistan slumped to 5-39. This time even Javed failed. Despite a brave 75 from Inzamam (his first fifty in his fifth Test), the fourth-innings target was only 127.
The home side at once stage reached 3-65, but then their batting was simply blown away by the two Ws. Waqar took 5-22, while man-of-the-match Wasim claimed 5-45. Andrew Jones with 19 was the top scorer in the Kiwi second innings.
NZ tour in February 1994
A year after the Hamilton drama, the two Ws returned to NZ to haunt their batsmen yet again. The Pakistanis won the three-Test series 2-1, but actually it was much more one-sided than that.
In fact, when the Pakistanis took a first-innings lead of 144 in the third Test in Christchurch, a clean sweep looked a likely possibility. But the home side produced a brilliant fight-back to win by five wickets.
The first Test in Auckland was similar to the Hamilton Test a year ago, except that here the Kiwis batted first. Waqar took 4-46 and Wasim took 3-50. They restricted them to 242 all out but still the home side took a lead of 27. Then Wasim destroyed the NZ second innings, taking 6-43, and then left-hander Aamer Sohail with 78 took Pakistan to a five-wicket win.
The second Test in Wellington was dominated by Wasim. His 11 wickets helped the tourists win by an innings and 12 runs. Waqar came in to his own in the first innings in Christchurch, taking 6-78 in the first innings.
An interesting development took place during the five-match ODI series that followed the Tests. The Pakistanis won the series 3-1 with a tied match in Auckland where Waqar singlehandedly defended a total of 161, taking 6-30. All the matches were low scoring because of the seamer-friendly pitches. The explanation of the Kiwi board was that even on good tracks, the Kiwi batsmen couldn’t handle the two Ws. So they made sure that at least their bowlers could have a go at the opposition batting on seaming wickets.
Kandy 1994 versus Sri Lanka
On the opening day, put in to bat, the Sri Lanka innings lasted just 28.2 overs as they were bundled out for only 71.
Waqar took 6-34 and Wasim took 4-32. No other bowler was required to bowl. Poor Kabir Khan, a left-arm pace bowler, he didn’t even get a bat in the Pakistan first innings. At least he bowled ten overs in the second innings, taking 1-39. Waqar took 5-85 and was adjudged the man of the match. The Pakistanis easily won the two-match series 2-0.
Karachi 1994 versus Australia
Inzamam was the big final-day hero for Pakistan in this famous and also controversial Test, but it was the two Ws who had started the Pakistan fight-back in this match.
Australia were very comfortably placed at 2-171 in their second innings before they ran through the Australian lower order to restrict them to 232 all out, despite David Boon’s 114 not out.
Still, Shane Warne’s five-for looked enough for an Australia victory until the final-day drama.
England tour of 1996
Wasim Akram in his second stint as Pakistan captain led his team to a comfortable 2-0 victory in the three-Test series. Here, leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmed helped the quickies a great deal.
There were concerns about Waqar’s form prior to the tour. He didn’t look at his sharpest in the 1995-96 season. Indian batsman Ajay Jadeja smashed 22 runs from one Waqar over in the World Cup quarter-final match.
Waqar shrugged off all the doubts by picking up eight wickets in the opening Test at Lord’s to set up a comfortable Pakistan win. Pakistan also won the third Test at the Oval. In the first innings, England were restricted to 326 all out in perfect batting conditions with the two Ws sharing seven wickets among themselves.
Three-nation Carlton and United Series final in Australia, January 1997
The Pakistan side led by Wasim Akram recorded their first ever major one-day success down under, by beating the West Indies 2-0 in the final. And as usual, the two Ws were at the forefront.
In the first match at the SCG, the West Indies slumped from 0-99 to 9-179 thanks mainly to the superb fast bowling by Waqar Younis, who took 4-43. Wasim was wicket-less, but only conceded 23 runs from his ten overs. Pakistan won the match by five wickets.
The West Indies took the early initiative in the second final after bowling out the opposition for only 165 runs. But the Pakistan bowlers hit back brilliantly. Thanks to Wasim, the West Indies team were restricted to 5-32 and they never really recovered. Wasim (3-17), Waqar (2-17) and third seamer Shahid Nazir (3-14) bowled the Windies out for only 103.
Rawalpindi 1997 versus the West Indies
The whole Pakistan team performed superbly to defeat the West Indies 3-0. This was the Windies’ first clean sweep for almost 70 years.
Shoaib Akhtar, the new speedster in the Pakistan team, made his debut here. But it was the old pros who did the main damage, taking five wickets apiece in this match.
Quite remarkably, three West Indies batsmen were run out in the second innings. Pakistan won this second Test by an innings and 29 runs.