First Test


Toss: Australia. Test debut: M. G. Bevan.

Australia's new era, after the end of Allan Border's decade of captaincy, began with an epic encounter. What looked like their first Test victory in Pakistan for 35 years was turned into a home triumph by the bold batting of Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed on a slow, low pitch. Coming together at 258 for nine with the awesome task of averting Pakistan's first ever defeat at the National Stadium, Inzamam and Mushtaq added 57 on a worn pitch against the redoubtable leg-spin of Warne. To the unrestrained delight of a crowd which steadily grew in number and chanted Allah-O-Akbar (God is great), they accomplished their goal in 8.1 overs, against an attack weakened by the withdrawal of McDermott, with an infected toe, and then by injuries to McGrath and May. In the end, Warne and Angel, in his second Test, were the only front-line bowlers still standing. Pakistan had never scored as much as 314 in a fourth innings to win; coach Intikhab Alam described the victory as the country's finest ever. Observers hoped it might revive interest in Test cricket in Pakistan.

It was especially deflating for Taylor, the first man to score a pair of spectacles in his first Test as captain. He had decided to take the new ball at 229 for seven, when Warne was in full cry. The final result was disappointing for both Warne, who gave another command performance - eight for 150 from 63.1 overs - and Michael Bevan, who announced his arrival in the Test arena with a composed 82. It was especially dispiriting for the vice-captain and wicket-keeper, Healy, who blamed himself for the defeat: Pakistan gained the winning runs from four leg-byes when Inzamam was out of his ground attacking Warne.

The Australians had converted a useful first-innings lead of 81 into a handsome overall advantage of 313, thanks principally to Boon, who scored his 19th century in 90 Tests, and added 122 in 174 minutes with Mark Waugh. Waugh's dismissal precipitated a collapse of eight wickets of 61 runs, the last five for just 19 in 9.2 overs, against the irresistible fast bowling of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Wasim finished with a match analysis of eight for 138 and Waqar seven for 144. They were responsible for six ducks over Australia's two innings. Flamboyant opener Saeed Anwar was inspired to play two wonderfully expressive hands of 85 and 77.

Just when it seemed Australia's ensign might finally be raised again in Pakistan, his efforts were backed up by Inzamam, who was undefeated over two hours and 35 minutes, Rashid Latif, with a daring 35 from 56 balls at No. 9, and Mushtaq. Pakistan's famous victory was only the seventh by one wicket in Tests. It was Australia's third wafer-thin failure in successive seasons, following the defeat by one run against West Indies at Adelaide in 1992-93 and by five runs against South Africa at Sydney in 1993-94.

Man of the Match: S. K. Warne.

Close of play: First day, Australia 325-7 (I. A. Healy 54*); Second day, Pakistan 209-7 (Wasim Akram 12*, Akram Raza 1*); Third day, Australia 181-5 (D. C. Boon 85*, I. A. Healy 3*); Fourth day, Pakistan 155-3 (Saeed Anwar 67*, Akram Raza 1*).

© John Wisden & Co