Third Test

Pakistan v Australia 1998-99

At Karachi, October 22, 23, 24, 25, 26. Drawn. Toss: Australia. Test debuts: Shahid Afridi, Shakeel Ahmed, sen.

The pitch at the National Stadium at Karachi looked hard and dry two days before the match started; not surprisingly, both teams chose to field three spinners. Yet those six spinners had only nine Tests between them - perhaps one reason why the match was drawn. For Pakistan, tall off-spinner Arshad Khan had played one Test, while left-armer Shakeel Ahmed of Rawalpindi (not to be confused with the younger wicket-keeper of the same name who appeared in the early 1990s) and 18-year-old leg-spinner Shahid Afridi were making their debuts, Afridi came in after 66 one-day internationals, a record before a first Test, beating Robin Singh's 60 and Gavin Larsen's 55. Australia's trio, MacGill and Robertson (three previous Tests each) and Miller (two), were given the advantage of bowling in the second and fourth innings after Taylor decided to bat.

Obviously realising that his best time to break through was on the first morning with the new ball, Wasim Akram, returning after flu, tested Taylor and Slater to the limits in a wonderfully spirited and inventive opening spell. It was Wasim's best of the series, although it failed to produce a wicket. Slater, in particular, did well to withstand the onslaught: in three deliveries, Wasim hit him on the shoulder and the helmet, then sent a fast, swinging yorker a few centimetres wide of off stump. Surviving that, Slater eventually reached an excellent 96 before charging at Arshad; he missed, and was stumped. Without him, Australia would have struggled. Afridi finished with the slightly flattering figures of five for 52.

Pakistan's reply depended entirely on a captain's century by Aamir Sohail. He was without his classy partner Saeed Anwar, who had withdrawn with an ear infection, and he was batting to recover respect amid rumours of team unrest. Sohail rose above his problems to score an impressively defiant 133; the next highest score was Wasim's 35. No doubt Sohail was also motivated by the need to maintain Pakistan's unbeaten record in Karachi, where they had never lost in 33 previous Tests, all but one at the National Stadium. McGrath was the best of the Australian bowlers, taking five for 66 as he finally escaped the plague of dropped catches he had suffered in the first two Tests.

The Australians led by 28, and on the third evening extended that by 30 for the loss of Slater. A collapse might still have given Pakistan a chance to steal victory, but Mark Waugh ensured they would not deny Australia their historic success with his only notable innings of the series, a solid 117 which set up a second-innings total of 390. It was his 15th Test hundred, matching his twin Steve's achievement in the First Test. Mark had been out of touch throughout the trip, possibly worried about his own four-year-old involvement with an illegal bookmaker, which was shortly to become public.

Pakistan needed 419 to win on the last day, an impossible task. They finished at 262 for five, Ijaz scoring his second century in successive Tests, an undefeated 120. With six spinners operating in this match, there were many difficult, close decisions to be made by the umpires, David Orchard of South Africa and Pakistan's Riazuddin. Both performed very well, maintaining order in a quiet but effective manner in a situation that might easily have got out control.

Man of the Match: Aamir Sohail.

Men of the Series: Pakistan - Ijaz Ahmed; Australia - M. A. Taylor.

Close of play: First day, Australia 207-6 (Healy 14*, Robertson 4*); Second day, Pakistan 170-6 (Aamir Sohail 83*, Wasim Akram 19*); Third day, Australia 130-1 (Taylor 65*, Langer 45*); Fourth day, Australia 390.

© John Wisden & Co