First Test

Pakistan v Australia 1998-99

Toss: Pakistan. Test debut: C. R. Miller.

The two first innings of the series indicated the pattern that continued for the rest of the tour: Pakistan played as a loose group of individuals, Australia as a tight unit. The effect was Pakistan's first innings defeat on home soil since they lost to West Indies in 1986-87, and the only result of the series.

Aamir Sohail chose to bat on a pitch expected to crumble as the match wore on - which was why Pakistan had chosen three spinners. Yet their batsmen managed only 269, with opener Saeed Anwar playing a great lone hand of 145. It could have been far worse - Pakistan were 147 for eight before Mushtaq Ahmed joined Anwar to add 120 for the ninth wicket. MacGill took five for 66 in his second Test while Miller, an unexpected selection, dismissed Salim Malik with his fifth ball on Test debut.

This failure by Pakistan's batting left Australia with a chance to exploit a turning pitch later on, but to do so they had to score around 500. Who better to lead the way than Steve Waugh? He came in at a perilous 28 for three in the seventh over but, from the first ball he faced, Waugh looked determined to put Australia on top, while Slater showed new restraint in a technically solid 108. Together, they turned the match with a stand of 198. Waugh then added 126 with Lehmann, who made a brisk and assured 98 in his second Test, outliving Waugh to put on another 91 with Healy. This innings was the most critical period of the series. Where Pakistan's batsmen drifted technically and mentally, Australia were purposeful enough to recover from a poor start and build vital partnerships.

Buoyed by a lead of 244, Australia's bowlers responded to the opportunity. McGrath's opening spell to Anwar and Sohail was a fierce and brilliant sprint almost as significant as Waugh's marathon. Though he took only two wickets - Sohail at the start and Saqlain at the end - McGrath imposed his will on the match. Soon enough, Pakistan crumbled under the pressure; they were all out for 145, to lose by an innings, in the fourth over of the final morning. Only Malik, recalled for his first Test since April 1997, resisted, remaining unbeaten after three and a half hours. MacGill collected four for 47, giving him nine for the match, but the pitch, though helpful to spin, did not break up to any alarming degree. It was Pakistan's batting and morale which did that. Meanwhile, their gamble of playing three spinners had backfired: left-armer Mohammad Hussain performed below Test standard, and Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed were not at their best.

When Healy caught Wasim Akram during Pakistan's second innings, he passed Rod Marsh's world record for dismissals by a wicket-keeper in Tests. Marsh took his 355 in 96 Tests, while Healy went from 353 to 356 in his 104th. Appropriately, Healy's record-breaking catch was a brilliant reflex effort off a spinner (Miller), highlighting the general excellence of his keeping to spin, honed by his years of partnership with Warne.

Man of the Match: S. R. Waugh.

Close of the play: First day, Pakistan 253-8 (Saeed Anwar 132*, Mushtaq Ahmed 26*); Second day, Australia 237-4 (S. R. Waugh 104*, Lehmann 4*); Third day, Australia 513; Fourth day, Pakistan 137-9 (Salim Malik 48*, Saqlain Mushtaq 3*).

© John Wisden & Co