Hussey ton sets up stunning win for Australia
Australia completed a nerve-shredding 36-run victory over an exasperating Pakistani side to become just the sixth team in Test history to triumph after trailing by 200-plus on the first innings. An obstinate 123-run ninth-wicket partnership between Michael Hussey and Peter Siddle drew Australia back into a contest they appeared to have conceded after a calamitous opening day, and a penetrative final-day bowling display completed one of the great comebacks witnessed on these shores.
The Australians, who resumed play on Wednesday eight wickets down and only 80 runs ahead, set the Pakistanis a challenging target of 176 following the brilliant, improbable stand of Hussey and Siddle that almost matched Australia's entire first-innings aggregate. Pakistan's batsmen positioned themselves for a victory charge at several junctures of their innings, but Nathan Hauritz's second five-wicket haul in as many matches ensured the tourists fell agonisingly short in their pursuit.
In the end, it was a game of "who blinks first". The Pakistanis have made no secret of their plans to attack Hauritz throughout the summer, and looked to erase large chunks of their deficit while the Australian spinner was in operation. Such a tactic was inevitably going to lead to chances, and Hauritz proved good enough to take them on a gripping afternoon at a ground that has come to resemble Australia's theatre of dreams.
Hauritz began his series-clinching spell with a caught-and-bowled catch that threatened his further participation in the contest. Mohammad Yousuf, whose timid tactics in the morning session played into the hands of the Australian batsmen, belatedly found his aggression and bludgeoned Hauritz's third delivery after lunch with the force of a thousand ordinary drives,. Alas, he did so in the bowler's direction and an unflinching Hauritz held onto an excellent catch that cut open his left thumb and required medical treatment.
Far from finished, Hauritz removed the out-of-sorts Misbah-ul-Haq two deliveries later, then rolled through the Pakistani tail to complete a polished performance that served as further evidence of his evolution into a legitimate international spinner. His efforts were complemented by those of Mitchell Johnson, who finished with three wickets and commenced Pakistan's terminal slide with the dismissals of Salman Butt and Faisal Iqbal in the same over. Doug Bollinger, too, thrived in the pressure-cooker atmosphere, dismissing the potent duo of Imran Farhat and Umar Akmal in a spell defined by pace and discipline.
Earlier, Hussey took full advantage of Yousuf's oddly defensive captaincy and a placid SCG pitch to restore Australia's victory prospects. Hussey and Siddle carried their bats through the first session and at one stage looked set to break the 116-year-old ninth-innings Australian partnership record at the SCG set by Syd Gregory and Jack Blackham.
Australia's revival was assisted greatly by the timid tactics of the Pakistanis who, as a result, were faced with a testing chase. Yousuf's defensive field configurations - which included eight men on the fence for Hussey, who was barely threatened up to lunch - did little to enhance his own reputation as a tactician and played as large a role in drawing Australia back into the match as the team's turgid catching of previous days.
Hussey has made more fluent centuries, but few as important as that completed on Wednesday. Having watched on from the non-striker's end as Australia lost 5 for 40 the preceding evening, Hussey seized control of the Australian innings on a flat batting surface and, in the process, relieved any lingering doubt hanging over his position in the team.
Hussey declined the charity singles being offered by Yousuf and instead looked to pierce the boundaries with drives that seldom left the carpet. He entered the nineties with back-to-back cover-driven fours off the bowling of Danish Kaneria and sealed his first ton of the summer with a glorious straight drive off Umar Gul. Hussey punched the air in delight upon reaching the milestone, acutely aware of the innings' importance in the context of the match. Siddle, meanwhile, batted with tremendous discipline and restraint to raise his highest Test score of 38.
Mohammad Asif and Kaneria claimed the final two Australian wickets six overs after the lunch break, but not before the hosts had added 95 runs on the fourth morning. Asif ended the dogged stand of Hussey and Siddle by removing the latter to a shorter delivery gloved to slip. Kaneria then completed the innings and a personal five-wicket haul by bowling Bollinger with a delivery that ricocheted off the batsman's elbow and foot.
It mattered little. Australia were already back in the contest.
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo