Pakistan v Australia, 2nd Test, Headingley, 4th day July 24, 2010

Hope floats after hoodoo ends

Despite the near panic at the end, this win is memorable as the one that breaks the stranglehold Australia have had over Pakistan

In Pakistan losing every single Test for nearly 15 years to Australia a broader story was being written than just one country's complete owning of the other. In that time Australia have built decisively and maintained ruthlessly a dominance of the game almost unequalled, which is only now beginning to rust. More or less in the same period - but more pointedly from 1999 onwards - Pakistan's years have been dark ones, with them struggling to build anything they haven't themselves taken down immediately. Australia have prospered; Pakistan have flourished, struggled, flourished, struggled and then struggled more.

In a way, the Headingley result actually says as much about Australia's continuing descent than it does about Pakistan. Not only has Ricky Ponting now overseen two Ashes losses, after all, he is also the first Australian captain to lose a Test to Pakistan since John Howard became PM. It can be argued that if anything is a true indicator of their decline, it is this; that no side quite as ludicrously inexperienced as this one has beaten Australia for many years is merely the salt.

No opponent has had as tight and brutal a grip over Pakistan in the modern age as Australia; no opponent has so exposed Pakistan's vast spectrum of frailties physical and mental; no opponent has so taunted Pakistan with the dictum that talent alone is nothing; no opponent has stuffed down their throats as forcefully the truth of sport today, that triumph has a collective, not individual, imprint.

In its own quiet way, shed of the jingoism of Pakistan-India, of the age of the Ashes, and of the ego clashes of Australia-India, Pakistan's modern contests with Australia (to call it a rivalry is to denigrate the notions of equality inherent in that) have also been compelling for what they have revealed about each country's approach to sport.

Until the end of that 1995-96 series, there was a degree of equality about their jostling; Pakistan had won 11 to Australia's 14 Tests. Since then they only ever came close to not being thrashed three times, and each time they lost, in Hobart in 1999, in Colombo in 2002 and in Sydney in 2010, it broke them that much more. By the time of Michael Hussey's semi-final escape in May, they had long gone over the edge: a whole generation of cricketers had come and gone believing, behind the press-conference platitudes and public statements, that Australia cannot be beaten.

No matter that Pakistan collapsed at the finishing line only to stick one pinky over. In its own individual way, as the win that halted that run, it will be difficult to forget

How crippled they are by Australia was evident in this chase. Forty to get with seven in hand, last night in Pakistan, was an equation 50-50, and that was an improvement from the opening day when Australia were 88 all out. The way they went about it this morning, possibly the players thought they had less of a chance. At one point you would've put good money on John Howard's longest hops winkling out the lower order.

But just to provide a blip in that equation is cause for some celebration - and there will be an outpouring in Pakistan. No matter that they collapsed at the finishing line only to stick one pinky over. In its own individual way, as the win that halted that run, it will be difficult to forget.

The optimist will draw greater significance, not least from this being a second win in 19 Tests against all sides. Pakistan chased a small total to win, which is precisely what they haven't done on three occasions in the last year alone. The nature of the chase suggested they're far from getting it down pat, and Pakistan have forever been poor chasers of small totals. To expect that to change overnight is to be a fool, but finding a way to win, experiencing a big win, can do telling things to young players.

Elsewhere he will see the arrival of Azhar Ali and the immediate calm he brings to the top order and feel that here is something out of which a solid one-down can be moulded. He will look at an opening partnership that has provided three century- and five half-century stands in 11 Tests, even as he scratches his chin to wonder how Imran Farhat has contributed to that. Friday was the Farhat of Lahore against India in April 2004, an opener of promise and patience in a four-hour hundred, not the ICL-jigged chancer. He will note that not a single catch was dropped in the outfield over two Tests or by Kamran Akmal. The potential of the bowling attack, meanwhile, will compel even the pessimist to rejoice alongside him.

He'll also say what a fine way to start a captaincy this has been. Few would've imagined Salman Butt to be the man to break this hold but few second-guess Pakistan cricket correctly. Butt had his moments here; some nice hunches, some level-headedness but some scary, panicked moments too.

He should not, though, see the win as some definitive triumph of youth over age and rule out a return of Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan. The middle order has promise but nowhere through the two Tests has it been sturdy enough for Test cricket. It needs the kind of mentoring Inzamam-ul-Haq's presence in the middle provided earlier this decade to both Yousuf and Younis.

The pessimist will simply wait till the end of a still long summer.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Arafat on July 27, 2010, 6:05 GMT

    I am not a great fan of Osman Samiuddin, but this is a piece... nicely compiled

  • Shahiq on July 27, 2010, 2:02 GMT

    Crap administration by PCB, just two days and still no news about whether Yousuf's in or not !!!! Now, even if they send him, he wont even get enough net practice to play a test match ... And then they will play him , poor chap might not score much, will be dropped for the rest of the series, would be forced to retire !!! What a shame ..... A week before, all the ego of Mr. Butt was gone, he was begging Yousuf to come back. Suddenly, a wonderful performance from the bowlers & all his ego was back, ignoring all the batting problems & then this all followed ... What a same !!!!

  • Mick on July 27, 2010, 0:18 GMT

    Art: Buddy, deep breath. I know you're excited but just settle down a little. No doubt a landmark win against Australia but I think to say the Aussies stand defeated after a 1-1 draw in a series in which they played absolutely atrociously might be a stretch. Unless you're happy with one test match in 15yrs. In that case, go on and lose your mind. I only hope the Pakistani players don't see it that way or normal service is sure to resume soon enough.

  • Dummy4 on July 26, 2010, 23:27 GMT

    osman bhai i like ur article very much and alwayz pakistan won and we alwayz read this type of article I LOVE PAKISTAN AND MAY ALLAH BLESS ON OUR PAKISTAN AND PAK CRICET TEAM THANKS!

  • Dummy4 on July 26, 2010, 21:08 GMT

    Well Done Congrats.Pls let them play and enjoy winning against Australia.They will carry the same against England if our PCB not intervine.I know everybody is trying to get credit.I wish them all the best against England.Don't make any changes.Let them have good time and encourage and uplift the whole team by express positive statement.I always belief in my pakistan cricket.We are world beaters.Every team in the world are scared of pakistan.Once again i congraulate for beating Australia.

  • Azim on July 26, 2010, 19:29 GMT

    Pakistan cricketing history suggests; if batsmen are not selected from Karachi then there is no way we can ever have stable bating line out - This is a reality the sooner we realize it the better it will be for Pakistan cricket else pessimist and optimistic both simply will wait for miracle to happen in out batting.

  • Muthuvel on July 26, 2010, 19:13 GMT

    congrats Pak on a fine guys are back with a fine new ball attack. But why are Yusuf and Younis not playing.

  • hamza on July 26, 2010, 17:00 GMT

    Yet another negative and pessmistic article from the author. I do not agree with the authors view point on bringing back Yousaf and Younis. Its a relief younis and yousaf are not part our team. Their recent performances have been useless. Even at their peak, they never delievered at cruch times. 2003 and 2007 world cups are just examples; we were relying on them and they failed miserably. Hopefully they wont be a part of the 2011 WC team. When Yousaf scored more than 500 runs in the England series in 2006, we still lost 2-0; he did not win us or save any match. Above all, both of them think of themselves as being bigger than the game. They have violated the code of conduct on more than one occasion. As Salman Butt rightly pointed out, we should stick with our new players and back them.

  • Ahmed on July 26, 2010, 16:12 GMT

    What is most depressing to me as an honest Pakistan cricket fan is presence of shoiab malik in team. Can any body tell me any performance by him (except against indian toothless attack in champions trophy) in last five years of consequence. To me, when we are playing with shoaib malik, we are playing with 10 players. He is a safe catcher but he does not save runs in the field. If we are so hope less that we have to play shoiab malik in the team, who refuses to play on difficult pitches, plays in the middle order and wants to stick to some batting position of his choice and yet has an average of 35 (exclude india and see what is his batting average, i think less than 25), than how can we win against australia, moreover it reflects on batting talent in our country.

  • TARIQ on July 26, 2010, 16:11 GMT

    YES,,Good performance BUT DO NOT FORGET that this was down to the bolwers and blowlers alone who should take credit for this win. Again and Again,people are stressing to bring both Y's back and with this win and the current group in the team will not allow this to happen.I can clearly see that Shoib Malik is now Salman's best friend as he was with Younis and Yousaf, the munit you drop him,he will start plotting against you and stab you from the back as he did with both Y's. I think that Afridi did mentioned him that he is not suitable for test cricket and should only be picked for One dayers and T20.I think the this young batting lineup desperately needs an experienced hand in the middle or they will keep relying on thier bowlers to rescue them out AGAIN AND AGAIN. Kami's keeping has improved and very impressive with overall fielding looks satisfactory. Kaneria looks a spend and impotent bowler now and should be replaced by another spinner.

  • No featured comments at the moment.