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Pakistan's proximity to trouble-torn Afghanistan, and the aftermath of the Karachi suicide bombing that cut short New Zealand's tour in May, had a lingering impact on Pakistani cricket later in 2002. In August, after months of discontented murmuring from their players, the Australian Cricket Board finally pulled out of their scheduled three-Test tour, citing government advice and security concerns.
Confronted with a choice between finding a neutral venue and cancelling the tour, the Pakistani board discussed grounds in Morocco and Bangladesh. But they finally chose Colombo for the First Test and Sharjah (where they had played West Indies in similar circumstances earlier in the year) for the last two. There were no one-day games. Even then, in the midst of the gathering storm over Iraq, the selection of a Middle Eastern venue caused concern among the Australians. The relocation was a blow to Pakistan; with home advantage seized from their grasp and several key players missing, they were crushed 3-0. Steve Waugh wanted a whitewash and his men delivered.
Pakistan's biggest failing was to field a team that was far from their strongest, a fatal flaw against a unit of Australia's quality. The experienced Saeed Anwar and Wasim Akram withdrew, claiming they needed rest, yet bobbed up in a hit-and-giggle tournament in Wales. Both were later called before the board to explain themselves. Injuries to Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana kept them out too, and in each of the matches at least four of the top six had fewer than nine Tests' experience. Glenn McGrath announced that he would target the newcomers and, despite the emergence of Faisal Iqbal as a batsman of quality, the inexperienced line-up was exposed by a ruthless attack.
Still, Pakistan competed to the end in the First Test, as Shoaib Akhtar bowled a couple of gale-force spells and twice dragged them back into the game. But, ultimately, they were beaten by the genius of Shane Warne and the cool-headedness of his colleagues. Needing just 86 to win on the last morning, with six wickets in hand, Pakistan were bowled out 42 short. Warne went on to enjoy a vintage series, taunting the Pakistanis with his sleight of hand and taking 27 wickets. Thirteen were lbws, evidence of the effectiveness of his "slider", a new delivery that skidded straight on.
During the Second Test, in the sledgehammer heat of Sharjah, Pakistan unravelled pitifully. Bowled out for 59 and 53, they managed fewer runs in two innings than Matthew Hayden made in one, and slumped to a humiliating innings defeat inside two days. The chairman of the board, Lieutenant General Tauqir Zia, immediately offered his resignation, though it was not accepted. The Australians were equally merciless in the Third Test. Shoaib withdrew with what officials called a "minor back niggle" and Pakistan were thrashed by an innings once again. The recriminations would come, but only after the embarrassment was compounded by a poor World Cup.
Despite Australia's handsome win, the series was played against a clamour of speculation about the future of the Waugh twins. Mark averaged only 20 and missed several regulation chances at slip. His final innings at Sharjah proved his last before withdrawing from Test cricket. By the end of the month, he was dropped, and he then chose to retire.
The captain, Steve, also had his difficult moments, but an unbeaten 103 in the Third Test, clinched with consecutive sixes from Danish Kaneria's leg-spin, kept the wolves at bay for a while longer. In any event, cricket's most accomplished twins were hardly needed: Ricky Ponting and Hayden both had superb series. Combined with Warne's magic and McGrath's accuracy, it proved more than enough for the Australians to maintain their ascendancy.
Match reports for
Warmup Match: Pakistanis v West Indians at Colombo (Police), Sep 27-29, 2002
Match reports for
Australia v West Indies at Colombo (Police), Sep 11, 2002