Third Test Match

AUSTRALIA v PAKISTAN

At Sydney, November 30, December 1, 2, 3, 4. Pakistan won by 74 runs. Toss: Pakistan.

The series won, Australia's high standards slipped. Pakistan's victory, inspired by another excellent display of leg-spin by Mushtaq Ahmed, allowed them to leave for New Zealand in good heart. Mushtaq's quick, skiddy style proved well suited to the SCG's slow turner and he returned nine for the second time running. As at Hobart, the Australians faced him with great discomfort; his leg-break turned threateningly throughout.

Improbably, Pakistan's first-innings 299 was the highest total of the match. The mainstay was Ijaz Ahmed, who batted nearly seven and a half hours for his third Test century - all against Australia. It was born of earnest defence interspersed with occasional drives or cuts. He progressed from 89 to 97 with edges through the slips and reached three figures in the last over of the first day, cutting McDermott over point. Finally, on 137, he slapped a knee-high full toss from Warne straight to McGrath at deep backward square. People talk about Warne's mystique; this owed everything to luck.

Salim Malik had come out to a raucous Sydney welcome. He raised his bat in mock celebration as he got off the mark to boos and cat-calls. The next time his bat was raised it was to respectful applause after a skilful and bloody-minded 36, which included three successive cover drives against McGrath. When he was fourth out at 210, Pakistan envisaged at least 400, but the opportunity was wasted, despite Wasim Akram hitting four boundaries in five balls from McDermott.

Australia also seemed handily placed at 151 for three by the close of the second day. But Mushtaq was at his most ebullient next morning, supported by wicket-keeper Rashid Latif. The most impressive of his five wickets was the one that drew Steve Waugh from his crease, not an easy task; the most telling the gently floating in-swinger that accounted for Blewett. Australia were all out 42 behind, and the only batsman with cause for pleasure was Mark Waugh, whose four-and-a-half-hour 116 was his first Test century on his home ground.

If one player could lift Australia's spirits, it was Warne, on his much-trumpeted return from injury, and he did so with the last ball on Saturday. Believing that Basit Ali was temperamentally vulnerable, he broke his concentration with a prolonged mid-pitch discussion with Healy, and then bowled him through his legs trying to pad the ball away. The next day, Pakistan lost their last six for 103, suffering four lbw decisions, three keenly debated. Two went to McDermott, rousing himself with four for 11 in 35 balls, easily his most hostile spell of the series, and extra valuable as Australia had lost Reiffel to a torn hamstring.

That left Australia needing 247 and, when they resumed on the final day at 121 for three, their chances seemed even. But when Taylor unexpectedly charged at Mushtaq and was stumped for an otherwise discriminating 59, their cause was forlorn. Waqar, a fast bowler with the World Cup on his mind, for once slipped himself to make short shrift of the tail and Pakistan won before lunch.

Man of the Match: Mushtaq Ahmed. Man of the Series: S. K. Warne.

Attendance: 61,733.

Close of play: First day, Pakistan 231-4 (Ijaz Ahmed 101*, Basit Ali 8*); Second day, Australia 151-3 (M. E. Waugh 54*, S. R. Waugh 26*); Third day, Pakistan 101-4 (Salim Malik 21*); Fourth day, Australia 121-3 (M. A. Taylor 49*, I. A. Healy 4*).

© John Wisden & Co