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Pakistan's tour of Australia was widely expected to be one of the most quarrelsome and unsavoury series in Test history. It took place in the aftermath of Australian bribery allegations against the former Pakistani captain, Salim Malik, an affair which had been unsatisfactorily concluded because of ICC's inability - or unwillingness - to hold its own investigation.
But the three-Test series passed off relatively peacefully, which was testimony to superb leadership on both sides. Mark Taylor had already established himself as a highly principled Australian captain and his authority was emphasised as his players' behaviour remained exemplary, despite their resentment that a Pakistani judge had proclaimed Malik's innocence and effectively called the Australians liars. Taylor said merely: "I think the players feel a little let down". Wasim Akram, reinstated as captain in place of Ramiz Raja, deserved equal commendation for his handling of the Pakistani squad. They had been riven by conflict and mistrust over the allegations of bribery and betting scams but, in trying circumstances, they generally maintained a cordial and dignified air.
Malik himself often cut a peripheral figure, his prevailing mood summed up on the eve of the First Test when he stated: "I hate Australia; it's hell. I just stay in my room all day watching TV." When he required six stitches in a hand wound on the first day of the series, it precipitated the arrival of his brother-in-law Ijaz Ahmed, who not only strengthened the batting, carving a stubborn hundred in the final Test in Sydney, but provided Malik with some much needed succour.
On the field, Pakistan were far from impressive, going 2-0 down within eight days before gaining a consoling victory in Sydney when Australia eased off with the series already won, just as they had against England the previous summer. Pakistan's fielding was at times inept, one hapless practice session after their defeat in Brisbane being turned into an It'll Be Alright On The Night comic sequence by Australian TV. It gave Australia the chance to wipe away their draining experience in Pakistan a year earlier, when they dominated all three Tests, but lost the series 1-0; Taylor had likened that to having his heart torn out.
Pakistan rarely considered the Test series in isolation, instead constantly referring to its importance in terms of World Cup preparations. Never had limited-overs cricket been afforded so much significance when measured against the traditional format. To regard a competitive Test series as something akin to a training ground for a one-day tournament seemed psychologically flawed, even to the greatest enthusiast for the limited-overs game. Malik had played little cricket while the bribery investigation was pending, but his selection was justified on the basis of World Cup planning. Pakistan's desperation to retain their title in front of their own supporters was also illustrated by the bowling of Waqar Younis, who had missed their previous World Cup victory (and the adulation and rewards which followed) because of injury. With his history of back trouble, Waqar chose to ease himself through the series. He gradually rediscovered his in-swinging yorker, but rarely approached his old hostility until the final stages of the Third Test in Sydney. Arguably, his most aggressive over was bowled in the nets during a match against Victoria at the MCG; Aamir Sohail, who was batting without a helmet, received three bouncers in a row, the third of which hit him in the face and demanded five stitches above his top lip. "Accidents happen", said Wasim.
Commercial pressures in modern Test cricket were underlined in the First Test in Brisbane when the Australian Cricket Board agreed to a Sunday rest day (the only rest day in a six-Test summer) because Channel 9 had a commitment to cover the Adelaide Grand Prix. Traditionalists bemoaned the fact that Queensland's cricket followers were denied a Sunday at the Test, but the TV company's demands held sway.
Leg-spinner Shane Warne, Malik's principal accuser, had received lengthy counselling before the Brisbane Test, and he was beset by other off-field problems. A picture of him smoking during a press conference was used by one newspaper to whip up a health storm, and he also started court action over the publication of private wedding pictures. Warne did not look his usual exuberant self, but such impressions were misleading - his match figures of 11 for 77 at the Gabba were the best by an Australian against Pakistan and no one played him comfortably.
In building their reputation as the best Test team in the world, Australia had had one nagging doubt in the back of their minds. Since he was dropped after his first four undistinguished Tests, Warne's leg-spin had brought 183 wickets at 21.47 each. What would happen if he was missing? They discovered the answer, briefly at least, in the Second Test at the Bellerive Oval when Warne broke a toe while batting on the first day. Warne's big toe became the talk of Australia, but a national crisis was averted; Hobart's chilly, overcast conditions meant a three-man attack could cope. Craig McDermott fell well below his usual standards for much of the series, inviting the suspicion that his best years were behind him, but Paul Reiffel bowled soundly, and Glenn McGrath took over as the leader of Australia's pace attack.
Australians were initially much taken by Pakistan's 18-year-old off-spinner, Saqlain Mushtaq, who hinted at an ability to turn an occasional ball away from the right-hander, much in the manner of John Gleeson a generation before. As the series progressed, they warmed instead to the prankish leg-spin of Mushtaq Ahmed, who bowled with a perpetual smile and regularly appealed more through enthusiasm than sense. But his nine wickets in the Second Test in Hobart represented the best return by an overseas spinner in Australia since Bhagwat Chandrasekhar took 12 in a match for India 18 years earlier, and he took nine again at Sydney.
At Somerset, Mushtaq's tendency to bowl many more googlies than leg-breaks had encouraged the belief that he could be played predominantly as an off-spinner. The Australians had barely begun to chew over that theory when he began to turn his leg-break appreciably and often. Left out of the First Test, he finished with 18 wickets at 21.33, although even that was overshadowed by Warne, who also bowled in only two Tests, but took 19 wickets at 10.42.
After their success at Sydney, Pakistan crossed over to New Zealand for their third visit in four seasons, where their revival continued with another Test win at Christchurch. Again, Mushtaq, was the key figure, taking seven wickets in the second innings and ten in the match. Four one-day internationals followed, giving both teams further practice for the World Cup; honours were shared, as Pakistan twice took the lead and New Zealand twice drew level.
Wasim Akram (PIA) (captain), Aamir Sohail (Lahore/Allied Bank) (vice-captain), Aamir Nazir (Allied Bank), Aqib Javed (Allied Bank), Ata-ur-Rehman (Lahore/Allied Bank), Basit Ali (United Bank), Inzamam-ul-Haq (United Bank), Mohammad Akram (Rawalpindi/Allied Bank), Moin Khan (Karachi/PIA), Mushtaq Ahmed (Islamabad/United Bank), Salim Malik (Habib Bank), Saqlain Mushtaq (Islamabad/PIA), Waqar Younis (United Bank).
Saeed Anwar (ADBP) was selected but withdrew because of illness. Ijaz Ahmed, Sen.. (Lahore/Habib Bank) joined the party after Salim Malik was injured.
Tour manager: Intikhab Alam.
Test matches - Played 4: Won 2, Lost 2.
First-class matches - Played 7: Won 2, Lost 3, Drawn 2.
Wins - Australia, New Zealand.
Losses - Australia (2) Victoria.
Draws - Western Australia, South Australia.
One-day internationals - Played 4: Won 2, Lost 2. Wins - New Zealand (2). Losses - New Zealand (2).
Other first-class match - Won v ACB Chairman's XI.
Match reports for
Only Test: New Zealand v Pakistan at Christchurch, Dec 8-12, 1995
1st ODI: New Zealand v Pakistan at Dunedin, Dec 15, 1995
2nd ODI: New Zealand v Pakistan at Christchurch, Dec 17, 1995
3rd ODI: New Zealand v Pakistan at Wellington, Dec 20, 1995
4th ODI: New Zealand v Pakistan at Auckland, Dec 23, 1995
Match reports for
ACB Chairman's XI v Pakistanis at Perth (Lilac Hill), Oct 26, 1995
1st Test: Australia v Pakistan at Brisbane, Nov 9-13, 1995
2nd Test: Australia v Pakistan at Hobart, Nov 17-20, 1995
3rd Test: Australia v Pakistan at Sydney, Nov 30-Dec 4, 1995