Second Test Match

Australia v Pakistan

Geoffrey Dean

At Melbourne, December 26, 27, 28, 29, 2004. Australia won by nine wickets. Toss: Pakistan.

Australia's ability to extricate themselves from a tight corner was well illustrated by a victory that clinched their fifth successive series win over Pakistan. When Clarke was fifth out at 171 shortly before the end of the second day, they faced the likelihood of a first-innings deficit, possibly a large one, and the prospect of a difficult run-chase in the fourth innings. Barely five sessions later, they had won the series.

Pakistan had entered the match full of uncertainty, after angry criticism of their performance in Perth had culminated in the burning of effigies of Inzamam-ul-Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Bob Woolmer and selector Wasim Bari on the streets of Karachi. When Inzamam was ruled out by a back injury, thus handing the captaincy to Youhana, Pakistan's first Christian captain, their new leader responded by making a brilliant 111 off 134 balls, sharing a national record fourth-wicket stand against Australia of 192 in 46 overs with Younis Khan. Both played Warne particularly well, mainly off the back foot: Youhana hit him for three of his four sixes.

The platform for a competitive total - on a pitch much more to Pakistan's liking than Perth - was laid by an opening stand of 85. It was dominated by the 20-year-old stroke-playing left-hander Salman Butt, whose 70 took just 99 balls. But he threw away his wicket when chancing an unlikely second run on Clarke's throw from third man. It was symptomatic of Pakistan's profligacy, which later returned when their last seven wickets went down for 55. Abdul Razzaq's strokeless stay played completely into Australia's hands, his unbeaten four spanning 110 minutes and 76 balls. His innings compared with the slowest in Test history: only Geoff Allott's nought in 101 minutes for New Zealand against South Africa in 1998-99 was comparably painstaking. Australia were no less guilty of some poorly conceived and executed strokes in the first half of their innings. Hayden slapped a long-hop to point, and Ponting hooked to the squarer of two men back for the miscue. Langer reached a solid fifty off 80 balls but then tried to sweep from well outside off. Lehmann fended tamely to short leg, a third successive failure that would cost him his place.

Martyn, however, barely committed a single indiscretion in his 370-minute vigil, an expert innings from a player in the form of his life. His fourth hundred in seven Tests shepherded his side to an unlikely first-innings lead of 38, which lifted Australia's bowlers and badly demoralised Pakistan's batsmen. Martyn never dominated the bowling, hitting only 12 fours in 245 balls, but nor did he try to. Avoiding waste and concentrating on effect, he presented the tightest of defences while scoring at a steady pace. When Gilchrist joined him, he sensibly acted as a foil while his partner reaped 48 off 51 balls out of a stand of 59. Valuable support later came from Gillespie, who reached a second Test fifty, from 107 balls, and helped him add an important 93 for the eighth wicket. Shoaib Akhtar and Danish Kaneria fully deserved their five-wicket hauls, but they lacked support: Razzaq could bowl only seven overs due to dizziness.

Confronted by some excellent Australian bowling in their second innings, Pakistan succumbed to pressure on a drop-in pitch still playing well. The openers perished to ill-advised shots, Imran Farhat hooking straight to deep backward square. If Yasir was the victim of fine bowling by McGrath, then Youhana was particularly unlucky to be given caught off bat-pad against Warne. Younis played too early, toe-ending a pull to gully. From 68 for five, there was no way back, although Shoaib Malik resisted stoutly after he had retired hurt with split webbing. Australia made short work of their target, and Ponting sealed victory with a straight six. His side promptly donated their prize money to the Asian tsunami relief appeal.

Man of the Match: D. R. Martyn. Attendance: 129,079.

© John Wisden & Co