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Match-fixing, gunfire, infighting, triple-centuries and hat-tricks: Touring Pakistan is never dull

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28th February, 2022
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Touring Pakistan is never easy, but there’s never a dull moment.

I was lucky enough to go to Pakistan twice, in 1994 and 98, and with the Australian team embarking on a tour for the first time in 24 years, it brought back memories of a couple of very eventful trips.

There was match-fixing allegations, a devastating one-wicket loss, an assassination while I was walking the streets with Tim May, a Mark Taylor triple hundred, intrigue, infighting and two of the worst dismissals I’ve seen on a cricket field.

Oh yeah, and someone snared a hat-trick. On debut.

1994: Welcome to international cricket

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The 1994 trip to Pakistan was my first full-on Test tour with the team. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end.

We had a few guys in that team who had been to Pakistan in the previous tour in 1988, like David Boon and Ian Healy and the coach, Bob Simpson, so they told a lot of us newbies what to expect.

But nothing could prepare us for some of the stuff that came our way on and off the field.

It was the first Test tour without Allan Border after he had been captain for nearly a decade and Mark Taylor had taken over, making a few subtle changes – like ‘Tubby’ would start the meeting and end it too so you knew who was in charge.

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And it was also the first time the Australian team would all wear the baggy green cap for the first morning of every Test in the field so the batters would see everyone wearing it when they went out to the middle.

Back then it was a ten-week tour and I thought I was going to be there to maybe play a few of the one-dayers, but I didn’t think I was much hope of playing in the Tests. Simpson was keen on like-for-like replacements, and with Terry Alderman retired, he saw me as being an outswing bowler to fit that type but probably playing Tests in more swing-friendly countries.

The first Test was such an infamous one for us. I was 12th man, which had happened only twice in my career – I got the call when Pakistan needed around 60 to win for the last wicket to put the champagne and beer on ice. And it happened in Kolkata 2001 too when VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid led India to that extraordinary comeback win.

Pakistan were chasing 314 to win in that first game at Karachi, and when they were 9-258 with Mushtaq Ahmed joining Inzamam-ul-Haq out in the middle it looked like we were certainties.

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Unbelievably they put on a few runs, and when they were just about there I remember Shane Warne set the trap for Inzy by leaving mid-wicket open. He went down the pitch and missed it and everyone thought it was going to hit the stumps. Poor Heals missed it and it went for four byes and they won.

KARACHI, PAKISTAN - OCTOBER 2: Shane Warne of Australia shows his frustration as the ball runs for 4 byes to give Pakistan victory during the 1st Test match between Pakistan and Australia October 2, 1994 in Karachi, Pakistan. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shane Warne and Ian Healy show their frustration as the ball runs for four byes to give Pakistan victory during the 1st Test match between Pakistan and Australia October 2, 1994 in Karachi, Pakistan. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Cricket is such a bizarre game – after their match-winning partnership, next Test Inzy had scores of 14 and 0 while Mushi made a pair!

It was devastating. Heals didn’t speak for ages afterwards – indeed the whole group didn’t because we hadn’t won there for 35 years and we knew how crucial that first Test was going to be in a three-match series.

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Down the track it turned out that was the match when Salim Malik, the Pakistani captain, called Warnie and Tim May to try and get them to perform badly so they could win the Test.

That was surreal. I’m not a gambler and everyone was a bit naive back then thinking what would the odds have been. We found out later on that there are a whole lot of elements to match-fixing as far as betting on certain aspects of the game.

And Malik batted brilliantly, playing the ball so late, and dominated that series – if he hadn’t batted as well as he did, we would have won 3-0.

The day before the second Test in Rawalpindi, Glenn McGrath was injured, so I thought I might have been some hope of a debut. When we went out to the middle for centre-wicket practice it was the only grassy pitch we’d see all tour.

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There was no ceremony back then. I worked at what was then the Australian Cricket Board when I was a young fella and I used to go down to the uniform room and hand players their baggy greens. I remember giving Paul Reiffel his one.

My baggy green was in the coffin from the start of the tour. You just stare at it. I didn’t want to wear it on the field for a tour game, only when I’d actually earned it.

We batted first and smashed them, and I didn’t get a bat. It wasn’t until late on day two that I finally did anything. They had two great openers, Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar, and they took me for five an over in my first spell.

It was a confidence drainer, but I remember Bob Simpson telling me that I’d bowled well but they’d played their shots and rode their luck. I ended up getting four wickets in that innings, and we made them follow on, which wasn’t the greatest decision because the pitch flattened out and we spent two-plus days in the field.

I reckon Tubby dropped Salim off me when he was about 30 or 40, so we did have our chances to win, but he ended up getting 237 before I managed to carve out a slice of history for myself late on day five.

I’m not sure if anyone knows this, but I happened to get the first hat-trick on debut in the history of Test cricket. It’s something I’m quite shy about and I usually bristle when people mention that no-one else has ever done it, because I don’t like to talk myself up. But someone jogged my memory about it before writing this column, so I thought I would see if I could remember exactly how it happened.

I got Aamer Malik and then Inzy first ball with an LBW decision, and they weren’t too frequent over in Pakistan when you’re a touring bowler.

We took a drinks break and I didn’t want to bowl to Salim, who had a double hundred to his name, but he retained the strike.

I haven’t checked the numbers, but I’d be pretty sure no-one has ever taken a hat-trick with a batter on 237.

It’s corny and I don’t know why I said it, but I turned to Craig McDermott before I bowled and said, “Billy, Salim doesn’t know it yet but he’s going to become part of history” and he nicked it through.

The PCB released a video of it the other day, and there were bits of it I’d never seen. Big Jo Angel picks me up and benchpresses me in the air WWE style. Luckily for me there was no slam dunk..

RAWALPINDI - 9 OCTOBER: Damien Fleming of Australia celebrates his hat-trick after taking the wicket of Saleem Malik of Pakistan during the 2nd Test Match at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on October 9, 1994. Fleming became only the third bowler to get a hat-trick in his debut test. (photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Damien Fleming celebrates his hat-trick after taking the wicket of Salim Malik on October 9, 1994. (photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

It was quickly turned around by two of the most shocking and disappointing things I’ve ever seen on a cricket field in my career.

Firstly, Michael Slater then got a Test wicket, and then, secondly, Tubby, who was one of the worst bowlers I’ve ever seen, got one too with a ball that nearly bounced twice. Because he was captain he took himself off to preserve his average of 11 forever. Nightmare.

Pakistan successfully played for a draw in the third Test, with Salim scoring 143, and they wrapped up the series 1-0.

That team was so talented but there was so much infighting going on. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis weren’t talking to each other. If one was bowling and the ball was hit to the other, if it didn’t go straight to them, they’d let it go past them for four.

There were about six former Test captains in that team who all probably thought they should have had the job instead of Salim.

It was a very good bonding tour for us. We weren’t allowed to go out much apart from visiting the British or the American high commissions.

Being a dry country ( alcohol prohibition) there were no hotel bars. So the hotel team room was the place for us to socialise with beers, cards, trivia nights, facial hair growing contests and watching Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. I’d got my hands on a VHS copy from Hong Kong and because we didn’t have much else to do, I reckon the boys all watched that about 50 times over the course of the tour. Heals still calls me “Ace” whenever I see him because I almost morphed into Jim Carrey.

Tim May was my roommate for most of the tour – yes, we used to have roommates back in the day, an assorted lot from smokers, snorers and even boxing sleepwalkers – and he had a video camera, so we’d go do interviews with the locals, a bit like street talk on the Footy Show. We’d done it in Sri Lanka and had a bit of fun, so we thought we’d give it a try in Pakistan, but it backfired – literally.

We were talking to some people on the street about cricket but also about the AFL and making up answers. We were in the swing one day and it sounded like there were fireworks going off. A shopkeeper pushed us into his store and put the shutters down. He knew what was going on – it was heavy gunfire. He went into action and looked after the two of us.

Some government official had been assassinated. After an hour or so we got back to the hotel and that was the end of street talk. It didn’t thrive in Pakistani conditions.

Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis

Wasim Akram (left) and Waqar Younis were an all-time great bowling duo for Pakistan in Test cricket. (Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images)

1998: A piece of history

We were massive underdogs because we didn’t have Shane Warne because of his shoulder surgery and Pakistan had a star-studded team that was strong in all departments.

Our bowling line-up was very inexperienced apart from Glenn McGrath. I was playing my fifth Test, I think Stuart MacGill had played only one against South Africa and Colin Miller hadn’t played any.

Magilla dominated and was our trump card with no Warne on tour, and Funky showed his versatility bowling seamers and then switching to spin.

Australia hadn’t won a series there since 1959-60, and after we won the first Test we were a good chance. When the curators dished up batting roads for the next two games, we couldn’t believe it. We were happy to play out draws and win 1-0 as revenge for the same scoreline four years earlier when we were unlucky not to win that first match.

They could have made the wickets spin friendly to suit Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq or they could have juiced them up because they had Wasim, Waqar and Shoaib Akhtar bursting onto the scene with his raw pace, but they were batting paradises.

Heals broke the wicketkeeping record in the first Test when we bowled them out in the second innings. Funky bowled it with his Billy Idol hair, which might have been what frazzled Wasim.

We won by about 10:30 and we were having beers by about 11 o’clock. It was one of the biggest celebrations I’ve ever been involved in.

As the day dragged on into the night, the NSW guys in the team were getting a bit arrogant. They called themselves the Bluebaggers and every third or fourth song they’d request Ballroom Blitz by The Sweet and they’d sing the Bluebag blitz.

The rest of the states had had enough. Michael Kasprowicz was 12th man; we revved up the big Queenslander and he was like, “Yeah, yeah, bloody Bluebaggers”.

He took a run-up of about 20 metres while the NSW players were all singing together, arm in arm, and he obliterated them. Kasper hit the middle of them and we didn’t hear that song again on tour or ever again while he was around.

The second Test was the flattest deck I’ve ever bowled on, and that’s not to put down Mark Taylor’s 334 not out.

There was all that talk about whether he should declare after Day 2 or bat on after he had equalled Sir Donald Bradman’s record for highest score in an innings, but the general consensus among the bowling group was to keep batting for another day or two because there wasn’t going to be a result in this Test.

Maybe it might start breaking up on Day 4, but he might as well have batted on and got 600.

After drawing that, we thought it’d be a grassy wicket for the last one, but again it was a road, and we were more than happy to play out for a draw again because that was enough to win the series.

We won the one-day series 3-0, posting over 300 a couple of times, and looking back, I reckon that was the start of us building towards winning the World Cup the next year.

So my advice for the current Australian team is to make the most of the tour of Pakistan. The fans are passionate and vocal and will be appreciate of having an Australian cricket team back in Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi.

It’s a unique part of the cricketing world – but give the street talk video interviews a miss.

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