First Test Match

Australia v Pakistan

Geoffrey Dean

At Perth, December 16, 17, 18, 19, 2004. Australia won by 491 runs. Toss: Pakistan. Test debut: Mohammad Khalil.

Australia's largest victory in terms of runs for over 70 years was achieved on the stroke of lunch on the fourth day after McGrath returned career-best figures of eight for 24. Pakistan lost their last nine wickets in 21 overs for just 38 in a display their coach Bob Woolmer described as disgraceful. "There are no excuses," he said. "We just batted badly." Against outstanding fast bowling on a quick, bouncy pitch, Pakistan's batsmen failed to move their feet and played with their bats well away from their bodies.

It was the first time McGrath had taken more than four wickets in an innings in ten Tests at Perth. In temperatures pushing 34°C, he bowled all that last morning despite feeling "pretty ordinary" at the end of his first over. "My energy levels were down a bit, but it's amazing how when you get a few overs and wickets under your belt, things turn around," he said. "Towards the end, that was as good as I've ever felt bowling." Six of his victims were caught in the cordon from wicket-keeper to gully.

Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami had likewise caused the Australians problems with their pace and movement on the first day, but the supporting seamers, including the debutant left-armer Mohammad Khalil, were ineffective. Pakistan were perhaps one wicket away from dismissing Australia cheaply after reducing them to 78 for five, but then bowled poorly at Langer and Gilchrist, who repaired the innings with a stand of 152 in less than 29 overs. Gilchrist's fine counter-attack of 69 off 78 balls with ten fours was ended when he unluckily played on off his thigh. But Langer then found staunch support from Gillespie, one of the most improved tailenders in world cricket, as the pair added an important 80 in 20 overs for the eighth wicket.

Langer narrowly missed carrying his bat, sacrificing himself to be last out for 191 off 280 balls. His cutting and pulling were a feature of his 413-minute stay, which included three sixes, two of them over long-on off Danish Kaneria, as well as 18 fours.

Curiously, he said he had never felt truly "in", even at the end of an innings in which he was hit several times by the fiery Shoaib, to whom the wicket-keeper stood back some 30 yards. Shoaib collected not just a five-wicket haul but also a fine worth 40% of his match fee from Ranjan Madugalle, the series referee, for pointing Hayden towards the pavilion on the first morning - an act deemed a Level 1 offence under the ICC code of conduct.

Pakistan's fate in the match was sealed by an abject batting performance in their first innings against persistent bowling. Of the top-order batsmen, only Younis Khan, who resisted 138 minutes for his 42, seemed to have much stomach for a fight, and he was one of three batsmen to get out to ugly slog-sweeps at Warne. Kasprowicz was the pick of the Australian seamers, maintaining an ideal length to return only his second five-wicket haul in a home Test. Had the Australians not dropped five catches, admittedly all difficult, the Pakistanis might barely have reached three figures. Ponting said afterwards that, at 111 for eight, he envisaged enforcing the follow-on, but when it took 30 overs to claim the last two wickets, he decided against. No doubt, he also wanted his top order to have some batting practice, after all bar Langer had failed in the first innings.

With Shoaib suffering from a foot problem, Australia's second innings became something of a run-feast against dispirited opposition. Langer took his match aggregate to 288, while Ponting, who came within two runs of a first Test hundred in 2004, delayed the declaration longer than needed so Martyn could complete his century. After bowling their overs at a funereal pace in the first innings, Pakistan hustled through 43 overs of spin in the second, thereby precluding any possibility of fines, or the suspension of their captain for a slow over-rate.

Man of the Match: J. L. Langer. Attendance: 42,193.

© John Wisden & Co