Pak have a long tale in Australia

Published: Nov 14, 2019, 05:03 IST | Clayton Murzello | Mumbai

Not only is the Misbah-coached outfit bereft of Test series wins Down Under, it also hasn't won a traditional game there since 1995

Pakistan's head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq. Pic/ Gety Images
Pakistan's head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq. Pic/ Gety Images

ClaytonLike India this time last year, Pakistan are eyeing an unprecedented series triumph in Australia. India hadn't won a series for 71 years while their neighbours need to break a 55-year jinx.

Head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq is confident of his "ambitious team" putting on a good show in the forthcoming two-Test series, but history tells us that Pakistan have been horrendous on Australian soil over the years; they've copped five whitewashes.

Yes, they notched up their first Test win in Australia a season before India did — a fine Imran Khan-triggered triumph in the final Test at Sydney against a top Australian side in 1976-77 — but since then, they could win only three more (in 1978-79, 1981-82 and 1995-96).

Pakistan's four wins pale in comparison to Australia's 24 in 35 Tests Down Under. It's too poor a record for a team that had some seriously talented fast bowlers and adaptable batsmen. Temperament has clearly been a factor in their poor record because far too often their batting has proved fragile in the face of some relentless Australian bowling.

In the 1972-73 Test against Ian Chappell's team at Sydney, Pakistan, captained by Intikhab Alam, had to score 159 for a solace victory in the series, but ended up losing by 52 runs with Max Walker claiming 6 for 15. 'Panikstan' roared a magazine headline and the sub-editor was not off the mark.

The great Imran Khan was not part of that series but he was around for Pakistan's next assignment in Australia — in 1976-77. Again, Sydney afforded an opportunity for the visitors to win their first Test in Australia. The series was still open considering the first Test was drawn and Australia —under the younger Chappell this time (Greg) - won in Melbourne.

Imran was all keyed up after having claimed five wickets in a pre-Test game against Queensland in Brisbane where he bowled like the wind. But a meeting with Geoff Boycott provided him extra motivation. Boycott advised him to make full use of the new ball in Sydney since the opposition will thrive when the ball gets softer. Above all, he reminded Imran that he was capable of bowling with great speed. His 6 for 102 helped bowl out Australia for 211 and a century by Asif Iqbal, with vital contributions from Haroon Rashid and Javed Miandad, guided Pakistan to 360.

When Pakistan bowled again, skipper Mushtaq Mohammad threw the new ball to Imran for the first over of the innings. Imran said in his first autobiography that it didn't go down well with Sarfraz Nawaz when he "stole a look" at his burly opening partner. Imran claimed six wickets for the second time in the match and Australia were blown away for 180, leaving Pakistan to get just 32 for their first Test win on Australian soil.

Alan Davidson, the all-round stalwart of yesteryear, called it one of the most outstanding feats he had seen on his home ground. Imran admitted finding that statement an exaggeration.
Pakistan won their next Test on Australian soil as well — at Melbourne — in March of 1979. Australia were without their big stars who had been part of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket but Pakistan had their full array of stalwarts. They fared poorly by being dismissed for 196 on Day One but bowled out Australia for 168 with Imran claiming 4 for 26. The classy Majid carved a second innings hundred to set Australia 382 to win and the hosts fell 72 short of the target. This time Sarfraz emerged the bowling star with amazing figures of 9 for 86. During the last day, Australia needed only 77 for victory with seven wickets in hand but Sarfraz choked them with a 7 for one spell in 33 balls.

The next Test at Perth, a controversial one where Alan Hurst 'Mankaded' Sikander Bakht and Andrew Hilditch was dismissed handled the ball, was won by Australia for the series to end 1-1.

Australia won the series in 1981-82 but Pakistan notched up yet another Melbourne win in the third and final Test. This time, a massive innings and 82-run win. Mudassar Nazar and Zaheer Abbas were dismissed in the 90s but they didn't have to sulk too much as Pakistan put up 500 to which Australia responded by managing 293 and 125 after following on. The old firm of Imran and Sarfraz came to the fore again, helped by spinner Iqbal Qasim, who claimed seven wickets in the match on a slow Melbourne surface which got slammed especially by the hosts yet again. India claimed a victory there the previous year as well.

Two wins in Melbourne and it appeared Sydney, where Pakistan had won their maiden Test in Australia during the 1976-77 series, was feeling left out. Like in 1981-82, Australia had already won the series before the final Test in 1995-96. This time, there was Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in the pace unit but it was their leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed who did most of the damage with nine wickets in the Test which Pakistan didn't attract much kudos for.

They were coping with the match fixing controversy, form and fitness. "An inordinate burden of responsibility fell on the shoulders of Aamir Sohail and Inzamam-ul-Haq to make runs, and on the peerless Wasim [Akram] to take wickets, at least until Mushtaq Ahmed emerged like a jack-in-the-box to relieve him," wrote Greg Baum in Channel Nine's Cricket Yearbook 1996.

Pakistan have not won a Test on Australian soil since then; they've not even held the hosts to a draw there ever since. Twelve Test losses on the trot borders on the unbelievable.

Meanwhile, spare a thought for Misbah. None of his 75 Tests for his country ended in a Pakistan Test victory in Australia. No wonder he calls his side an ambitious one.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance.
He tweets @ClaytonMurzello
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