Australia v Pakistan, 1st Test, Perth, 4th day

Eight for McGrath the Great

The Wisden Verdict by Peter English

December 19, 2004

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Glenn McGrath was simply outstanding in the face of spineless batting © Getty Images
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At his best Glenn McGrath looks like he's jogging to the crease. He trotted in the second innings and captured the second-best figures by an Australian. Only after he'd reached seven victims, and thoughts turned to a perfect ten, did he start to charge. Michael Kasprowicz's two wickets helped him decide eight was enough.

There have been some great fast bowling performances at the WACA and this, statistically, was the finest. It was stunning and special, but in McGrath's list of 472 Test wickets these were some of the easiest. Curtly Ambrose blitzed Australia with 7 for 25, including a spell of 7 for 1, to win a series in 1992-93, and Merv Hughes and Craig McDermott crashed eight through West Indies and England sides boasting star line-ups. McGrath swept through a disappointing rabble.

Sensing weaknesses has always been one of his specialties. All he had to do today was look towards the opposition's dressing-room. The batting was simply awful; McGrath simply too good. Starting the morning with 1 for 6, he had added six wickets by his ninth over and found edges as easily as a rock climber. The eighth took longer - by then Kasprowicz had knocked over Mohammad Sami - and came with a Shoaib Akhtar bunt to Darren Lehmann, McGrath's only dismissal in front of the wicket.

Nothing about his bowling had changed significantly, although there was a touch of outswing. The pace was still in the low 130kmph bracket, the line was annoyingly around off stump and the bounce was uncomfortable. Pakistan were trapped, and responded with open blades. The worst thing about their performance was the lack of improvement.

Some tours are over in less than the three weeks they have stayed in Perth. Visiting teams will always struggle with the WACA's bounce, but they usually develop some method of resistance. This was Pakistan's seventh bat in Western Australia: they had learned nothing.



The end came too fast as McGrath ran red hot © Getty Images
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They were still trying to play forward (Salman Butt and Younis Khan); they were hanging their bats out waiting for the edge (Abdul Razzaq, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal); and they religiously prodded without purpose. Had Justin Langer been Australia's only batsman, they would have won by 37 runs. It was a horrible display from a side ranked fourth in the world. There wasn't even time for a dreadful run out.

Playing the first Test at Perth had been a risk for Australia. While their bowlers would always dominate, Shoaib and Sami could - and did - spark a demolition. Once their danger had passed Australia were heading to the MCG with a 1-0 lead. Ricky Ponting made sure the match went into a fourth day, and Glenn McGrath made it memorable.

Strangely, McGrath had never taken a Test five-wicket haul at Perth. Now the figures of 8 for 24, 14 runs fewer than his previous best at Lord's in 1997, stand only behind Arthur Mailey's 9 for 121 against England in 1920-21. It is a fitting milestone for a bowler destined to remain in Australia's top three alongside Dennis Lillee and Shane Warne unless another country kid spectacularly caravans his way towards 500 dismissals.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo.

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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