Second Test

Pakistan v Australia 1998-99

At Peshawar, October 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. Drawn. Toss: Australia.

If ever a sound typified a Test then it was the mellow thwack of the ball meeting the middle of Mark Taylor's bat during his undefeated 334 in this game. On a flat, evenly grassed yellow pitch, which hardly changed appearance over five days, Taylor played as well as he ever had in his ten-year Test career. After a less than perfect start against some very fast bowling from Shoaib Akhtar, Taylor made barely an error, hitting the ball with the sweet spot of his bat hour after hour. His pulling was brutal, his cutting precise.

Australia made only one change to their winning team, Ponting coming in at No. 6 for the injured Lehmann; Pakistan made four. Wasim Akram withdrew with flu, Saqlain Mushtaq was visiting his sick father, while Mohammad Wasim and Mohammad Hussain were dropped. they were replaced by pace bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Zahid, and batsmen Ijaz Ahmed and Yousuf Youhana.

These team changes made little difference once Taylor had won first use of a pitch made to last a fortnight. After Shoaib's first spectacular spell, which removed Slater with the score at 16, Taylor and Langer settled into a 279-run stand for the second wicket, asserting a dominance of bat over ball which never faltered. Their partnership became the highest for any wicket in Australia-Pakistan Tests, eclipsing 259, also for the second wicket, by another pair of left-handers, Wayne Phillips and Graham Yallop, at Perth in 1983-84. On the second day, Australia added 375 for the loss of three wickets. At stumps, they were 599 for four, with Taylor unbeaten on 334 and level with Bradman's Australian record at Headingley in 1930. He clipped the final ball of the day, from Aamir Sohail, towards square leg, but Ijaz, who had hardly excelled in the field before then, threw down a hand and managed to stop what would have been a record-breaking single.

Taylor had batted for exactly 12 hours and 564 balls, hitting 32 fours and a six. His innings was the seventh-highest score in the Test history, the 15th triple-century and the fifth by an Australian. He also became the fourth Australian to pass 7,000 Test runs. Yet more drama followed next morning as the news spread around the ground - and the world - that Taylor had sacrificed the chance of breaking both Bradman's mark and Brian Lara's world record 375 by declaring. Immediately the theorising and myth-making began. The local experts could not believe that Taylor would deny himself a shot at the record. One explanation which quickly gained currency, though it was later denied by Taylor, was that he had refused to pass the record of Bradman, the greatest batsman the game has produced and a living legend of Australian society. The simplest explanation was the correct one: Taylor thought 599 in two days was more than enough runs, and he wanted to try to win by giving his bowlers a chance at Pakistan's batsmen from the start of the third day. There were a number of team meetings that evening, and several players urged Taylor to bat on and beat Lara. But it was typical of his approach to the game that he should be aware of the record without being obsessed by it.

TRIPLE-HUNDREDS IN TESTS

*Not recorded.

MinsBalls4s6s
375766538450 B. C. Lara, WI v E at St John's 1993-94
365*614*380 G. S. Sobers, WI v P at Kingston 1957-58
364797*350 L. Hutton, E v A at The Oval. 1938
340799578362 S. T. Jayasuriya, SL v I at Colombo (RPS) 1997-98
337970*262 Hanif Mohammad, P v WI at Bridgetown 1957-58
336*318*3410 W. R. Hammond, E v NZ at Auckland 1932-33
334*720564321 M. A. Taylor, A v P at Peshawar 1998-99
334383436460 D. G. Bradman, A v E at Leeds 1930
333627485433 G. A. Gooch, E v I at Lord's 1990
325600*271x7 A. Sandham, E v WI Kingston 1929-30
311762*231 R. B. Simpson, A v E at Manchester 1964
310*532*525 J. H. Edrich, E v NZ at Leeds 1965
307727589200 R. M. Cowper, A v E at Melbourne 1965-66
304430466432 D. G. Bradman, A v E at Leeds 1934
302612430361 L. G. Rowe, WI v E at Bridgetown 1973-74

Research: Robert Brooke


The declaration did not help. As the Pakistanis came to the crease, it became more and more obvious that this pitch would have been more suitable for a timeless Test than one scheduled for a mere five days. Pakistan were able to declare 19 behind, at 580 for nine, with Saeed Anwar making a polished 126, Ijaz a typically brutal 155 and Inzamam-ul-Haq a patchy 97. It was the third time Inzamam had passed 90 without reaching a century in Tests at Peshawar. Australia resumed on the fourth evening and reached 289 for five before the match was called off. Taylor led the way again with 92, bringing his match tally to 426 for once out; only Graham Gooch, with 456 against India in 1990, had scored more runs in a single Test. And he had stamped his name forever on a game that would otherwise have seemed wholly pointless.

The postscript to the game came weeks later when Taylor visited Bradman at his home in Adelaide, and the Don thanked him - as he had in a letter - for not exceeding his record. The thanks might have been better directed at Ijaz.

Man of the Match: M. A. Taylor.

Close of the play: First day, Australia 224-1 (Taylor 112*, Langer 97*); Second day, Australia 599-4 (Taylor 334*, Ponting 76*); Third day, Pakistan 329-2 (Ijaz Ahmed 125*, Inzamam-ul-Haq 31*); Fourth day, Australia 21-0 (Slater 7*, Taylor 13*).

© John Wisden & Co