Australia's visit to Pakistan in October 1998 will always be remembered for Mark Taylor's historic 334 not out in the drawn Second Test at Peshawar, yet the most significant event of a tumultuous tour was their victory in the First Test at Rawalpindi. Taylor's effort, equalling Sir Donald Bradman's record for a Test score by an Australian, was a brilliant individual performance, but an excellent team effort in Rawalpindi was the crux of the series victory - Australia's first in Pakistan since Richie Benaud's team won 2-0 in 1959-60.
The First Test win became more and more significant as the other two matches ended in draws. On most of their visits to Pakistan during the 39-year drought, Australia had been beaten in the First Test and then fought back (usually) to draw the other matches. This time, they took the lead and never looked like surrendering it. Their triumph came without leg-spinner Shane Warne, arguably the best bowler in the game before a serious shoulder operation in May 1998. In his place, Australia sent New South Wales leg-spinner Stuart MacGill, who had made an encouraging Test debut against South Africa in January. MacGill's team-mate, off-spinner Gavin Robertson, had been kept out of the state side by Greg Matthews and had played little first-class cricket in the previous few seasons, yet he was chosen for his second tour of Pakistan. The third spinner, and the most surprising selection, was Colin Miller, a 34-year-old journeyman pro who had recently added off-spin to his medium-pace. Glenn McGrath had missed most of the preceding Australian season through injury and returned to the side with limited preparation.
In the batting, Michael Slater was continuing his rehabilitation after a period out of the team because of a propensity for reckless shot selection. Opening with him was Taylor, who had regained form after a dismal 1996-97 without winning over all his critics. Justin Langer was brought in to fill the No. 3 position, a major challenge for a player with only eight Tests behind him. All in all, Australia's team arrived with a number of serious doubts surrounding their likely form.
Pakistan had problems of another kind, mainly because their latest captain, Aamir Sohail, was one of the players who had accused colleagues of involvement in match-fixing. During the series, several of Pakistan's stars had to appear before the Lahore High Court's Commission of Inquiry; at one stage Sohail and Wasim Akram, one of those accused, shared the court room. Relations between the two appeared frosty in court; they can hardly have been cordial in the dressing-room. Taylor and Mark Waugh also gave evidence, concerning events on their previous visit in 1994-95. What they did not say about Waugh and Warne's own adventures was to cause problems later. But for now the tensions associated with the match-fixing allegations seemed to affect Pakistan far more than Australia. Meanwhile, Wasim's pace partner, Waqar Younis, did not play because of an elbow injury that had ended his English county season. His proven class was badly missed.
Selections played a critical role, with Australia making adventurous choices which turned out well, while Pakistan seemed to misread pitches and planned badly. They used 18 players in three Tests, Australia 13. Seven months earlier, Australia had lost a series in India 2-1, confirming their traditional fragility on the subcontinent, whereas Pakistan had won their most recent home series, beating West Indies 3-0. Pakistan, who later lost to Zimbabwe, may have been on a downward spiral. Yet, given the context of Australia's disappointing history on the subcontinent, the significance of the victory should not be underestimated.
After Rawalpindi, Taylor said that his team, led by a toughened nucleus of himself, vice-captain Steve Waugh, Ian Healy and Mark Waugh, had brought a much more positive attitude to this tour than previous Australian tourists and had cast off their damaging cultural baggage. Taylor's side went to play positive cricket and did so. They were rewarded with a rare victory and three notable individual performances. Taylor was Australia's man of the series: he made 513 runs at 128.25, not just the 334. In the First Test, Ian Healy passed Rod Marsh's record of 355 dismissals to become the most prolific wicket-keeper in test history. And MacGill finished with 15 wickets at 27.46 in his first full series, admirably filling the huge hole left by Warne.
For Pakistan, Saeed Anwar was outstanding in his two Tests, scoring 290 runs with two centuries and averaging 96.66. Ijaz Ahmed, their man of the series, also scored two centuries in his 280 runs at 140.00 but, otherwise, Pakistan's batting was poor. Their pace bowling was also disappointing, and the highly regarded spinners, Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed, took only six wickets between them.
The victory confirmed Australia's standing as the best Test team in the world and left Pakistan in some disarray, on and off the field. There was to be no consolation in the ensuing one-day series, which Australia won 3-0. Australia even left impressed by the standard of Pakistani umpiring, which has caused so much controversy over the years. Javed Akhtar, who had been at the centre of a storm after a terrible match at Headingley only two months earlier, was quietly efficient at Rawalpindi; and Mohammad Nazir and, in particular, Riazuddin remained firm under great pressure.
AUSTRALIAN TOURING PARTY
M. A. Taylor (New South Wales) (captain), S. R. Waugh (New South Wales) (vice-captain), D. W. Fleming (Victoria), I. A. Healy (Queensland), M. S. Kasprowicz (Queensland), J. L. Langer (Western Australia), D. S. Lehmann (South Australia), S. C. G. MacGill (New South Wales), G. D. McGrath (New South Wales), C. R. Miller (Tasmania), R. T. Ponting (Tasmania), G. R. Robertson (New South Wales), M. J. Slater (New South Wales), M. E. Waugh (New South Wales).
M. G. Bevan (New South Wales), A. C. Gilchrist (Western Australia), B. P. Julian (Western Australia), D. R. Martyn (Western Australia), A. Symonds (Queensland) and B. E. Young (South Australia) replaced Taylor, Healy, Kasprowicz, Langer, MacGill, Robertson and Slater for the one-day series and S. R. Waugh took over the captaincy.
Team manager: S. R. Bernard. Coach: G. R. Marsh. Scorer: M. K. Walsh. Physiotherapist: E. Alcott. Fitness advisor: D. Misson.
AUSTRALIAN TOUR RESULTS
Test matches - Played 3: won 1, Drawn 2.
First-class matches - Played 5: Won 2, Drawn 3.
Wins - Pakistan, Karachi.
Draws - Pakistan (2), Rawalpindi.
One-day internationals - Played 3: Won 3.
Other non-first-class match - Won v Karachi XI.