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The short late season Australian visit undertaken by Pakistan at the conclusion of their successful New Zealand tour embraced a number of playing and historical features which were essential components of any overall review of the most extensive cricket season experienced in this country. The programme comprised four first-class matches between March 3 and 28, with Test matches at Melbourne and Perth supplemented by games against New South Wales and South Australia.
During January it had been reported that the New South Wales match would not be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground. It was anticipated that a shadow would be cast over the pitch by one of the new floodlight towers installed for night sport, including cricket. Provincial centres such as Newcastle were suggested as alternatives, but the decision to allocate the match to Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory, was of historic significance for it meant that, for the first time on record, New South Wales played an official match against a visiting international side outside their home state. Subsequently, it was found that the shadow did not hold up play when it appeared in a later Sheffield Shield match.
The Pakistan team's inclusion of eight players contracted to World Series Cricket called for an Australian Cricket Board clarification that it was prepared to play any team selected by a member of the International Cricket Conference - regardless of whether or not it contained WSC players. Thus the visitors arrived with a team possessing a wealth of experience and, although subsequent events showed some limitations in the depth of bowling, the Pakistan batsmen provided some of the best displays seen during the season's ACB-approved matches. Superb Test innings played by Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad and Asif Iqbal.
At the request of the ACB, the balls used for the two Test matches were re-designed to reduce the seam width by the equivalent of one-sixteenth of an inch and to employ finer stitching-thread. This followed the series of unusually low scores in the recent series against England.
Derogatory comments by Asif Iqbal on the eve of the Melbourne Test on the standards of the Australian and England teams in their series created ill-feeling that manifested itself in several incidents during the two Tests. These can only be described as unsportsmanlike and completely opposed to the best traditions of the game, even if they technically complied with the Laws of Cricket. In Melbourne, Hogg was run out by Miandad, who moved from silly point to break the wicket after the batsman, having played a defensive stroke a short distance down the wicket, left his crease to inspect the wicket. Although Hogg was recalled by Mushtaq, umpire Harvey confirmed his earlier decision. Hogg promptly struck down the stumps leaving the wicket. At Perth, fast bowler Hurst ran out Sikander when he was backing up ahead of the delivery - thus breaking a troublesome last wicket partnership with Asif who, in turn, wrecked his own wicket in the same style as Hogg. Then in the final Australian innings, the acting captain Hilditch, at the non striker's end, picked up the ball after a return from a fieldsman, handed it in a helpful manner to bowler Sarfraz, and was immediately the victim of an appeal and dismissal for handled the ball. All three incidents were much to be deprecated.
The form of the Pakistan players carried on very much from the longer New Zealand series. Miandad and Majid played in all four games, the former continuing to be a model of consistency: in Perth he hit his sixth Test century. Although his other three Test innings produced only 1 run, Majid played a delightful century at Melbourne, and a more consistent Asif did likewise in Perth. Zaheer and Haroon provided useful supporting roles.
Of the bowlers, Sarfraz- with some splendid help from Imran's stamina, accuracy and penetration - bowled Pakistan to their sensational victory in Melbourne. However, Perth was more difficult for the two faster bowlers, particularly as Mushtaq was unable to bowl at all and Sikander was handicapped by a back injury.
For Australia, fifteen players were used in an effort to settle the World Cup team composition. The batting of Border and Darling stood out, as did the successful fast bowling of Hogg and Hurst who were responsible for 25 of the 35 Pakistan wickets which fell to the bowlers in the two Tests. The selectors duly chose eleven of the Perth twelve for the World Cup tournament, naming Hughes as captain in the light of the greater application and enthusiasm shown by the players under his leadership at Perth.
The four tour matches attracted 67,495 spectators, of whom only 59,342 attended the Tests in the two recognised best cricket centres. It did appear that the earlier plethora of cricket had taken its toll, otherwise a daily Test average attendance of under 6,000 could be regarded with deep concern.
Test matches- Played 2: Won 1, Lost 1.
First class matches- Played 4: Won 1, Lost 1, Drawn 2.
Draws- New South Wales, South Australia.
One-day match- Played 1: Won 1. Win- New South Wales.
Match reports for
1st Test: Australia v Pakistan at Melbourne, Mar 10-15, 1979
2nd Test: Australia v Pakistan at Perth, Mar 24-29, 1979
Match reports for
1st Test: New Zealand v Pakistan at Christchurch, Feb 2-7, 1979
2nd Test: New Zealand v Pakistan at Napier, Feb 16-21, 1979
3rd Test: New Zealand v Pakistan at Auckland, Feb 23-28, 1979