Pleased to beat you
The mighty Australians were on their way back from a tour of England when they made a stopover to play one Test in Karachi. They had some big names in their squad but we weren't overawed, especially since a few of them were past their prime.
Fazal Mahmood and I had played alongside Keith Miller and Neil Harvey for the Commonwealth XI against MCC at Colombo in 1952. We knew it would be tough, but after our win against England at The Oval, just two years before, we were quite eager to face the Australians.
Back then in 1954 we had been called the babies of cricket; now we were full-grown. We had faced quick bowlers like Frank Tyson and Brian Statham on English wickets. Alan Davidson at Karachi didn't really seem very fast in comparison. And Ray Lindwall, who was at the fag end of his brilliant career, turned out to be merely a medium-pacer.
We had been a Test nation for only four years at the time but we were tough fighters out in the middle. The competitive domestic cricket of the time had moulded us that way. We played serious cricket and enjoyed it.
In those days Pakistan teams were usually selected unanimously. Gul Mohammad, who had opted to play for Pakistan after having played for India, was included in the side.
A routine breakfast meeting was held on the first day of the game. We discussed the match plan and everyone was told his job. Our fielding was pathetic in those days and our captain, AH Kardar, asked us to work very hard in the field to prevent the Australians from scoring freely. The general feeling in the team as we went into the game was that we were capable of giving the visitors a very tough time, if not actually winning.
We had two outstanding fast-medium bowlers, Fazal and Khan Mohammad. They were almost unplayable on the Karachi track, which offered them a fair bit of support. Together, they didn't allow the Australian batsmen any opportunity to relax. Fazal never wavered in length and direction, and he moved the ball both ways intelligently. He would bowl the middle- and off-stump line, then used the seam smartly to make the ball go down close to leg stump, which made it uncomfortable for the batsman. For one whole over from Fazal in the first innings, even the great Miller had no clue.
At the other end Khan Mohammad bowled with sustained accuracy. Both kept pegging away with great stamina, and they kept picking up wickets at regular intervals, so Kardar didn't take them off. The two of them bowled right through the Australian innings, for over 50 overs, dismissing the visitors for 80.
The wicket did take vicious turn on the second day and Ian Johnson took four. Richie Benaud bowled intelligently too. He sent down a half-volley to me, which I tried to drive. The ball got the outer edge of my bat and I was caught at slip.
Personally, I can never forget the fourth day of the match. Australia had been bowled out for under 200 and we needed 69 to win. The scoreboard moved at a snail's pace all day, almost exhausting the patience of the 20,000-odd spectators who had paid to watch the game. They were impatient for Pakistan to win, and they began yelling at and booing the batsmen. It got so bad at one stage that Alimuddin, who was at the crease, offered his bat to the crowd in disgust. We should have wrapped things up that day but ended up needing six runs to win on the last.
The fifth day was a public holiday to mark the death anniversary of Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan's first Prime Minister. When play resumed the day after, we eventually got the required runs without any further struggle. Fazal finished with 13 wickets in the match; Khan Mohammad took seven. We won by nine wickets. The crowds finally got their due after they had held their excitement in check for over a day.
Imtiaz Ahmed played 41 Tests for Pakistan in the fifties. He was speaking to Asif Sohail of the News. This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine